If you’re here, you probably care at least a little bit about picking up and putting down heavy things.
I’m talking about training, of course. The truth is training isn’t hopelessly complex. Find a decent routine, follow it, and you’ll make gains.
Unfortunately, you’ve probably found that life isn’t perfectly predictable and sometimes gets in the way of your training. You can’t always hit the gym exactly when you want and with perfect energy levels.
Sometimes you have to work overtime or pick up your friend from the airport. Sometimes you get injured or are more sore than usual. And sometimes your sleep is a bit off and you’re dragging more than normal.
Whatever the case, life occasionally gives you lemons, and you have to stay flexible and nimble or you’re going to get demotivated by not being able to follow your perfect little plans.
Well, what if there was a training system that could ensure you’re working hard enough to progress, but not so hard that you overtrain?
And what if it could do this no matter how you were feeling–whether you were fresh and spritely or unmotivated and rundown.
In other words, a system that could optimize your progress while managing recovery, all while staying flexible and fluid and adapting to you.
That’s the promise of something called autoregulation.
That may sound like a fancy term, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it in this episode. And luckily, I know someone who has a knack for breaking down nuanced, science-y subjects and making them accessible for everyone. That person is repeat-podcast-guest extraordinaire, Dr. Eric Helms.
In case you’re not familiar with Eric, he’s not only an accomplished bodybuilder, powerlifter, coach, author, scientist, and member of Legion’s Scientific Advisory Board, but he’s also one of the guys behind the Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS), which is one of the best research reviews out there.
All that is why he’s also one of my favorite guests for offering practical advice you can apply in the gym.
In this episode, Eric covers . . .
- What autoregulation is and who it’s for
- Implementing RPE and using it to manage both fatigue and load to make faster progress
- Individualizing training based on feedback instead of following a cookie-cutter program
- The advantages (and disadvantages) of velocity-based training
- Autoregulating exercise selection
- Practical recommendations for adding autoregulation into your current program
- And more . . .
So if you want to learn the ins and outs of autoregulation, and how you can use it to manage fatigue and optimize your progress, this episode is for you.
6:59 – What is autoregulation?
13:52 – Do you think autoregulation is a good technique for elite athletes and more sophisticated workouts?
29:19 – If you are in the middle of a training block and you notice that you aren’t close enough to your one rep max, do you make decisions on the fly or just stay to the program until that training block is over?
33:58 – What is velocity and RPE stops?
44:41 – What are your thoughts on auto regulating exercise selection?
47:19 – What are some other good reasons to change what you are currently doing?
57:35 – How can I implement auto regulation into my existing program?
Mentioned on The Show:
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Mike: Hey there, I’m Mike Matthews and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today where we are gonna talk about the art and science of picking stuff up and putting it down. And specifically today’s episode’s gonna be on the topic of autoregulation, which is a fancy term, and it sounds complex, but really what it boils down to is regulating your training based on subjective perceptions.
In some cases, you can verify and you can hone objectively. And I know that doesn’t really make sense right now, but by the end of this episode, you will understand what I mean. Now, why should you care about autoregulation? Well, when it is used properly, it is a very effective way to ensure that you train hard enough in your workouts to make progress, but not so hard that you increase the risk of getting hurt or experiencing symptoms related to over-training.
And also, when used correctly, progression models that rely on autoregulation have the. Additional benefit of being relatively simple, relatively straightforward. There are usually just a handful of moving parts, and you just have to understand how to pull the levers and push the buttons, and you usually don’t need to fiddle around with spreadsheets or apps or rep max calculations to know how much weight to put on the bar and so forth.
Now, that is not to say though. Autoregulated progression models are the best for everyone, for all exercises, under all circumstances. That’s not the case. But even where I think it is more appropriate to use a different form of progression, one that does prescribe percentage of one rep max to put on the bar, for example, you are still going to include at least one key element of autoregulation to make that training effective.
And that is the rate of perceived exertion, R p e, or another way of expressing that is reps in reserve r ir. And those are just a couple of the many things you’re gonna learn about in today’s podcast. And not only that, but you’re gonna learn from someone who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do.
Someone whose work I reference often, and someone who is one of my favorite repeat guests here on the show, Dr. Eric Helms, and in case you are not familiar with him, he is not only an accomplished bodybuilder, power lifter coach. Author, scientist and member of the Legion Scientific Advisory Board, but he’s also one of the guys behind my favorite research, well, training research.
They did add supplementation just recently, so I guess you could say training and supplementation. Research reviews, monthly applications in strength sport, which you can learn about [email protected], and know I’m not getting paid to say that. I just genuinely really like the work that Eric and Greg Knuckles and Eric Drexler and Mike Sotos are doing with Mass.
And so in this episode, Eric is going to give you a quick and dirty crash course in Autoregulation. He’s in. Of course. Explain what it is and who. Four and several ways to implement it in your training to make your training more individualized based on how your body responds based on the feedback you’re getting from your body as opposed to following a cookie cutter program very rigidly.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cookie cutter programs per se, and especially if you are new, but if you’re an intermediate weightlifter or you’re an advanced weightlifter, you probably can benefit from some level of customization. You can start with a really good training template, but using information like what you’re gonna learn in today’s podcast, you can then make it even better for your body and your goals.
Also, if you like, what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. And we’re on top because every ingredient and dose in every product is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research.
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Like producing more podcasts like this. Dr. Hems. What’s up Mike? It’s been a while. That’s my bond villain voice. Hey, well, you nailed it in case my day job doesn’t work out. You know, , it’s been a bit since we have done a podcast, so I’m looking forward to today’s discussion. I always enjoy our talks. I always learn something, which is cool.
And today’s topic is something I haven’t written much about, at least directly. So in my book, bigger Than or Stronger, which is intended for people who are new to proper weightlifting, it uses double progression. So there obviously is some autoregulation in there, but I don’t think I even used the term in the book because I figured it’s not necessary if you’re just brand new and there’s already a lot of information to digest.
In the beginning, I remember what that’s like, and. Beyond that, I don’t think I’ve even like written a, this would be something I normally would have a definitive guide on and do a podcast on, but I haven’t. So I think that this interview will be well received because it is fresh and new content, which I’m always looking for.
Eric: I like the way you frame that up actually. That, um, autoregulation it’s, you know, baked into a lot of the things that we see as part and parcel of weight training. And often you don’t necessarily need to in invoke the term as that often will have people put into a schema or a box and, and maybe be a little too limited in their thinking of what autoregulation is.
Mike: just run with that and let’s start with what is it, by definition, when people hear that term, what should they
Eric: think? Yeah, I think if we take out the word auto, , it’s something that is a little more clear in my opinion. You know, regulating training, that means that something that you do in lifting affects what you then decide to do.
That could be baked into a system. And then adding the term auto, it just means that it happens automatically and that it potentially puts that power in the hands of the lifter so that it’s not something that’s mandated by a coach. So, I like to frame this sometimes as if we take the perspective of what a good coach does.
They might have a plan, you know, Hey, we’re gonna deadlift today. You know, like, oh, my back’s really sore. We know a good coach would probably call an audible. They’d make a different decision about what to do. Like, ah, we can push that back. We can drop load, we can change range of motion. We’ll do something because the realities, quote unquote, on the ground are different than I predicted with my.
I think we can all imagine or remember times even where we followed what was on the spreadsheet no matter what, because that’s our personality and we had a plan to follow. And that can be counterproductive. Absolutely.
Mike: Especially in that, that’s a, a good example where something just kind of feels off or, I mean, I’ve run into muscle soreness before where from, I guess because of how my weeks are usually set up, it’ll be, I’ll plan to squat on Thursday.
I pulled on Tuesday, my hamstrings are still kind of sore and switch it up. Right?
Eric: Yeah, exactly. That’s a perfect example of, of uh, you know, making a change based on what happens. And I think if we understand some of the underlying philosophies of, you know, how humans are motivated, if we understand like self-determination.
And how having autonomy and competence are things that not only make people happier, but also make athletes more effective. And there’s uh, some interesting multidisciplinary research looking at that. Then we can see the value in giving athletes choices and we can also, as an athlete, it’s more and more experience.
We can leverage that experience. If you talk to some strength and conditioning coaches and very high level coaches who work with elite performers, a lot of the times their first protocol is, let me make sure I don’t mess up what is already working for this athlete. So the kind of the perspective, instead of having like a top-down coaching philosophy is the idea that the keys to this person’s success is in them.
They know their own body and they know their own experience better than anyone else possibly can. So I need to leverage that. So autoregulation is essentially training that is individualized. It’s built into it by having some type of system that adapts to your performance on game day. And that’s not the only way to view it, but that’s kind of your stock standard textbook definition.
But essentially there is something in your training that changes based on what happens. We can go back to that example of double progression where you decide to increase load once you’ve sufficiently met a volume target. And you know that that is a kind of a self-paced adaptation, right? As you’ve shown that you can accumulate volume with a given load and you’ve done what you’ve deemed a priority is sufficient to increase load.
then you do it. So you can set up a poorly autoregulated plan or you can set up a pretty solid autoregulated plan. But the inherent aspect of it is that it’s based on some type of biofeedback. And this could also be like psychometric feedback, but essentially it’s training that adapts to you and the realities of your environment.
So to contrast that with something else, cuz some people may kind of have this just ingrained in the way they approach things. People who quote unquote maybe trained by feel and have been in the game a while, and then maybe also have a relatively analytical mindset. Those people tend to kind of auto-regulate automatically.
Someone who is. Really just kind of training by feel and intuition without kind of any systematic approach. That’s not autoregulation, which is an important distinction. There does need to be some type of system. It’s just that the system is agile, the system adapts to what is happening. So anyway, to contrast it, if you were to take a spreadsheet based program online, and it had a relatively straightforward but logical progression, uh, and you did one RM tests and used a percentage of one RM and that just linearly went up and it, you know, manipulated volume intensity and followed all of the, let’s say, best practices that we’ve established in puritization literature and strength training literature.
that’s great, but how do we know that’s the appropriate volume for you? How do we know that the repetition that you can do at a given percentage, one RM match that of what’s in a textbook? Mm-hmm. . Also, how do we know that your fatigue and fitness responses to a given stimulus match the expectations of the person who wrote that program?
So I think that’s kind of the contrast to it. You know, you might follow some kind of Excel-based program and find that you were never even close to failure and you crushed the program, but didn’t make very. Great gains, it was probably too conservative for you. Likewise, you might find yourself in what’s considered a moderate week getting absolutely crushed on certain days, and that can also happen.
So that’s kind of the, what we’re trying to avoid with taking an autoregulated approach to
Mike: programming. In my experience. I’d be curious, and you have a lot more experience with, uh, autoregulated programs, I’m sure with yourself and then with the type of people you’ve worked with. But in my experience, I’ve played around with different strategies that I’m sure you’ll get into.
And maybe I didn’t give them enough of a go or maybe. For whatever reason, my physiology just didn’t respond or maybe I didn’t do them correctly. Although I think I did. I found that it added quite a bit of complexity and I can’t say I really noticed much of a difference versus something like what is in my newest book that I released, which I know you looked through beyond bigger, linear, stronger, which has just linear periodization on the primary exercises, double progression on the isolation, and of course that is not the one size fits all best way to program training.
I I understand that, but what I like about it is it is a low level of complexity. I think it is in alignment with the best practices that are most responsible for muscle and strength gain. It has not only worked well for me, but I had different beta testers working with me and it seems to be working pretty well, pretty consistently.
I’m starting to get feedback now from people, cuz the book actually was out for about a month before I did the launch. I had to do it that way. Publishing agreements with, I’m doing assignment in Schuster book and they wanted it out by a certain time, whatever. And so I had people already over a month into it, and I’ve been getting good feedback.
What are your thoughts on that? Like where does Autoregulation, let’s say, beyond double progression, which most people listening to this podcast are not only gonna be familiar with the term, but they’ll, they have done it. Anybody who’s been in weightlifting long enough has probably done it at one point.
But when you get into more sophisticated strategies, do you think it’s most relevant for elite athletes? Whether we’re talking about strength athletes or otherwise? Does it have a place in like a, a newbies programming or maybe an intermediate or maybe even somebody kind of entering the advanced phase of their muscle and strength journey,
Eric: so to speak?
I think it depends on the strategy, right? So the double progression one is, it works for anybody, you know, and that’s kind of built on, on the precept of understanding, like if someone is, if someone likes the idea double progression, that means. Whether they acknowledge it or not, they’ve bought into the idea that people make progress at different rates in terms of performance.
So the question is, is all right, well how can we apply that concept to other types of training? You know, you can do double progression on compound lifts, on main lifts, uh, where the goal is to get stronger, but it’s not always a great fit because like if you try to do double progression in like the four to six RM range with a compound movement, you start to really inch up the fatigue a lot.
Yep. And you know, you may need to, to take a different approach to where you need to deload every now and again, but a lateral raises or a bicep curl or a calf raise, it’s a bit of a different calculus for that reason. Yep.
Mike: And that’s what I found is when I was newer to proper weightlifting, like when I first started deadlifting, which was like seven years into weightlifting
So I hadn’t gotten very far for seven years of training, double progression, worked great for the first while really until it became very hard to. Continue making progress because of how hard I had to work in each set and could I have gotten an extra rep? How close was I to failure really? And. So at that point is when I found something like what’s in beyond bigger insurer, a more linear approach to at least primary exercises.
The big compound lifts allowed me to ensure that I was making progress over each training block, but in a way that is challenging, but not grueling,
Eric: you know? Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And so you can apply, we’ll talk about R P E now. Yeah. So a rating of perceived exertion, you can apply that to a linear progression.
And that’s, you know, essentially if you look at my muscle and strength pyramids books, which, you know, they have novice and intermediate and advanced programs. Once you hit the intermediate and advanced programs, they are what you described, they are using a linear progression of load. And just for the listener, when we say, when I say linear, I mean that there’s typically like a descending rep scheme and an ascending load scheme.
So that is linear volume is going down in terms of tonna. While actual load is going up. That’s what linear typically means in puritization parlance, if you will. And that’s mostly applicable to folks who are purposely trying to get their compound lifts up in terms of their strength. Now you can take that same concept and then just modify it with r p e.
So again, rating of perceived exertion. It’s a term that’s been around in exercise science for 50 years now, and it was initially applied to cardiovascular. and it was normally given more or less subjective ratings of, of how you would rate it. So on a zero to 10 scale, you know, zero might be rest, 10 might be maximal, five might be hard, seven might be very hard, three might be moderate.
And that’s all fine and good when you’re using an exercise modality that everyone understands. You know, it was originally for, Hey, let’s run on a treadmill. And in the seventies, you know, this was back when we still had like physical education in the United States. children still played outside . So people knew what it was like to be out of breath and it would correspond really nicely to like heart rate.
Mike: Now it’s like thumb fatigue from Fortnite. Exactly. , exactly. RP of my thumb. It’s been six hours straight, I’m gonna give
Eric: it a nine. Absolutely. Absolutely. So we’d have to modify it for the modern generation. Now that’s all fighting good. But when you start to apply it to a resistance training, what is more tiring or what is harder, is a little more opaque.
Like if you just look at load, things are are clear, or if you just look at volume, things are clear, but the interaction is not. It also depends on, on what you’re anchored to. So, because resistance training is less common even than, than aerobic training. If you’re to give someone with a background of endurance training and you have them do a three rep max, the research would suggest using the old uh, RPE scale, but that they might rate that as a seven or a eight.
Now, if you come from a resistance training background, you’re like, well, how could that be? That’s the hardest a three RM set could be, and that is someone speaking through the lens of anchoring three RM to that load and that volume. I went to failure. I couldn’t have done more. Mm-hmm. , but someone without any anchoring or anchoring to cardiovascular training is like, yeah, it was the most I could have done for three reps, but it wasn’t hard.
Like I wouldn’t describe that as hard. I’ve ran marathons so. The solution that came around from Mike to shear as a powerlifting coach, thought leader in that space. And then some of the peer reviewed literature myself and Dr. Erdos has done is to base the R P E scale on proximity to failure. So now, and nine R p e means I could have done one more rep and eight r p e means I could have done two more reps, a seven, three, on and on.
And just to clarify, are
Mike: you talking about absolute failure here or technical failure?
Eric: Those should be pretty close to the same thing for anyone who’s using the. So, one thing I was gonna get to is that, you know, to have that ability to gauge repetitions to failure, you have to have some training experience under your belt and you have to push yourself pretty hard.
So this is an appropriate scale for intermediates and advanced lifters. And if you’re truly an intermediate and advanced lifter, not just in terms of time spent under the bar, but also in terms of I would say technical expertise with the lifts. When you do a hard set, your form shouldn’t break down that much, maybe a little.
So in general, I like to use technical failure, and if that is wholly different than absolute failure, it may mean that you need to keep working on your technique. That’s a good piece of information for you, I guess you could say. Yeah, yeah,
Mike: yeah. It’s a fair point cuz uh, I guess as you get better, those things should converge really.
Eric: essentially what you can do is you can take that same linear program and if the idea, like, if you’ve programmed it in such a way where you’re always training to failure, well, you don’t need an RPE scale, should you be doing that for, you know, an advanced lifter who’s trying to get stronger and bigger.
I would probably argue not that kind of puts you into, it’s not a huge issue. You know, some people are probably a little too antifa from my taste, but it does put you into a certain corner where you can’t use a higher volume, you can’t use a higher frequency, and you better have a squat cage. You better have spotters, you know, especially if you apply this to compound lifts, and you need to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable.
So that’s certainly. a way of training you can use and it wouldn’t require r p e, but it may require, you know, like I said, less exposure to the lift. You’re trying to gain expertise with a disproportionate amount of fatigue, uh, the necessity to either use lower volume or use more f frequent D loads, et cetera, et cetera.
So it kind of, it backs into a corner. It gives you less options. Now, if you were to take an approach where probably both the way our books are written, you know, there are sub maximal training that you progress over time and maybe you get closer to failure as you’re, you know, pushing progressive overload.
But let’s say you go with a scheme where you’re doing a set of six, a set of five, a set of four and three successive weeks, and you’re making a small measured increase in load and you have multiple sets. Typically, people like to train or tend to train with straight sets the same load across those sets.
And that means that you’ll see fatigue accumulate, you’ll need to start sub maximally and you’ll get close to something that’s challenging on your last set of the day. And you keep trying to push that until you find, oh man, I’m really beat up. I need to take a D load. That’s the typical pattern. You can do that by programming percentages that should align with being sub maximal, but still challenging.
You know, I’m gonna do five by five at 80%, then I’m gonna do five by four at 82%, and then I’m gonna do five by three 85%. That would be an example. However, given there’s gonna be fluctuations in your fatigue for numerous reasons, from what we understand about the bio psychosocial model and just the, the demands of every day and unpredictable elements that impact fatigue and the rate you adapt, we could also say, all right, I want you to do three by six, three by five, and then three by four, and I want your sets to fall between a seven to nine R.
So that’s an example where, okay, I’m gonna choose a load for that first set. Okay? I’m doing five reps. It’s supposed to be around a seven RPE to start, okay? I’m gonna choose what I think I can do for eight today, and then I’m gonna keep that across my sets. And if I start to fall short of that or overshoot it, if I’m outside of a seven to nine rpe, if I find that that was nearly the failure, or man, that barbell barely even slowed down, I could have done five more reps.
Then you would just load on subsequent. and this is an excellent tool to essentially take one of those well-written plans that may or may not fit your physiology and your time course of adaptation and recovery, and then automatically make it a little more appropriate for you and kind of your pace of adaptation and your pace of fatigue.
Mike: sense. And it could go the other way too. If something feels disproportionately hard, the spreadsheet calls for sets of, of six with 80%, for example. And on your first set, you’re like grinding out the last rep then for the same reasons. Right. Then you, you could adjust accordingly. Absolutely.
Where, you know, okay, well I I’m going for six, but it’s not quite going to be
Eric: 80% today. Exactly. And I think a good way to view this for someone who is really kind of steeped in like the percentage, one RM perspective is that, hey, do you really think you’re one r. Is the same every day and mm-hmm. , do we really think we have a predictable pace of increasing our one RM from that one RM test we did say four or
Mike: five weeks ago.
And that’s a good point cuz I run into that in my training. So I have like 16 week macro cycles and I’m calculating one RMS at the end of each macro cycle before I start another. And so as I get further, I’m, I’m also experiencing that now because of the, the lockdown I did, I was able to work out at home, but I just have some dumbbells and I was, I was able to preserve muscle, but I didn’t, I don’t have a barbell.
So I was, I was actually surprised at how much I lost on my squat in particular, even though I was doing a lot of dumbbell front squats and dumbbell lunges and ham raises and just things I could do again, preserve. It doesn’t look like I lost any muscle, but I would guess I lost 40 to 50 pounds off of my one RM on my back squat.
Bizarre actually, and maybe it’s because I also added in cardio. I started doing 30 minutes of just low slash moderate intensity biking in the morning, and so that extra quad volume, I don’t know, I was just a little bit surprised. But now that I’m back in the gym, what I’m noticing is I’m having to make some of these adjustments you’re talking about because although the spreadsheet is calling for certain amounts and I do those one ORMs, I put in the beginning, were pretty accurate.
I’m getting a little bit of. Muscle memory, quote unquote effect, where now I’m, I’m a little bit stronger than I should be just given what would normally be occurring in a training cycle. And I saved my spreadsheet from pre Ronna and I’m comparing it, and that’s what I’m seeing. Cause I, I was pre ronna, that was not the case.
I wouldn’t get halfway through a macro cycle and be like, you know, I put 80% on the bar and I’m supposed to do sets of six and I probably could have done nine or 10. Mm-hmm. , you know.
Eric: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And what you’re describing is, can be an outcome of, you know, the realities of the world we’re living currently in, or there’s a lot of other things that can impact that.
We have data showing that college athletes during, around the time of exams are more likely to injured. We have data showing that people who report more negative, uh, perceived life events gain rate of the slower. We have data on successive nights of unders sleeping, reducing the rate of, of muscle gain and strength gain and all.
There’s a ton of stuff out there, right? So if we were, you know, in the 1980s, you know, being paid a stipend in a country with a sports system and we hung out, trained and slept, then maybe we’d reduce some of this noise. But even then, the coaches who worked with those athletes would regulate for them. So it wasn’t autoregulation per se, but it was, you know, coach induced regulation.
So I think we have some idea of some hard data that kind of backs what you’re talking about. So there’s a pretty cool study that Dr. Erdos did outta his lab where they took three pretty high level weightlifters, actually. One was a weight lifter, two were power lifters. definitely would categorize these folks as advanced.
Two of them were squatting over 500 pounds, and they basically had them, not even, basically, they had them train up to a close to a one RM every day for, I think a little over a month. Now, this tells you basically what is your one RM every day. Now, of course, by doing a one, one-arm every day, you’re introducing more noise into that, but essentially at any given time point they were at plus or minus 5%.
And you know, when you’re squatting 500 pounds, that means you could be down 25 pounds, you could be up 25 pounds, any, any given time point. Now, you know, you reduce the difficulty of that training program and the stress of it. That number comes down a little bit, but it’s still not the same every day.
Another way of looking at it is that the further you get away from a one RM load, the less predictable the number of reps you’re going to get. So while you’re, you know, N S C A textbook might say, you know, you’re gonna get 12 reps at 70%. 10 reps at 75%, eight reps at 80%. When you actually test that and you study it, it can be dependent on the population, prior training, the exercise, and even when you have a relatively homogenous population.
Another study that we did out of Dr. Zerto’s lab is we had a group of college days, males who could squat 1.5 times body weight, at least it worked up to a max. We chucked trash bags on on the plate, so they didn’t know it was on there, and they did as many reps as they could at 70%, and we had a range between six to 29 reps.
Now there’s only one person who did six. There’s only one person who did 29, but it would not be unreasonable to say that a pretty normal distribution of these participants were squatting between eight to 20 reps with 70. So you might prescribe as a stock standard kind of quote unquote volume day for a squat day, three by eight at 70%.
But for someone who’s on the low end of that distribution, who’s bad at reps, quote unquote, that first set will be at a 10 rpe, and they’re gonna have to drop load reduced reps or just get crushed. And the person who’s on the upper end, who’s really good at reps, quote unquote, who can do 20, they’re gonna feel like they just did three warmup sets and went home.
And we can probably guess that the adaptations would be divergent in those two individual. So the last piece of information, I think some people, they look at this and they, and they see r p E as a way of, you know, dealing with fatigue. But I liked how you framed it that hey, I could have done a lot more, I needed to actually increase my load.
You know, I came back from being detrained on the skill of the squat and with all my muscles still around, and I was making this rapid progress as I reaped that motor pattern. And that’s actually what we saw in my PhD. Final study where we had two groups compared, and I created the percentage based progression for one group.
And then I created the exact same set reps exercise selection, everything, except I gave the equivalent R P E to what I expected it would be based on that pretest one RM and the percentage group. And the one of the interesting findings with, through the course of the study, the rate of load increases in the R P E group were higher than the percentage based increases.
So the program that I gave them held them back at the group level, you know, you know, some people responded differently. So just as much as R P E can be used to deal with fatigue, it also might allow you to make faster progress. And that’s exactly what we saw in my study. That’s
Mike: interesting. And from a programming perspective, I’m curious what you do in your programming and with clients of yours and people you work with where appropriate or where relevant.
So if you are. , let’s say getting, you’re kind of where I’m at, right? I’m in the middle of this training block and I’m finding that what the spreadsheet is calling for is not as difficult as it should be based on my R P E or my reps in reserve, however you wanna look at it. Expectations where I would like to be ending one or two reps shy of failure.
And I’m finding that on some exercises, not all, but on some, it’s probably more like three or maybe even four in the first set, not the final set, but in the first set. I may not have given you enough information to even answer this question, but I’m just curious, generally, if you find yourself in a situation like that, will you just make that adjustment on the fly or will you just carry through the training block knowing that the weights are gonna get heavier and I mean, in my case, it’s gonna end with some am wrap, so I’ll get to some more difficult training.
But if I don’t make those adjustments, it may, none of it may actually, until I get to the AM wrap. None of it may feel as difficult as it should, you know? So
Eric: that’s a great question. And um, I think. Because I’ll give the answer for someone who is not you, but I’ll also say what I would do in your case, because your context is specific that you’re coming back from what I would say, skill de training.
It’s like you said, you’re able to keep training. You didn’t lose, you know, quadriceps muscle mass or anything like that. You’re gonna make these rapid improvements that aren’t really requiring massive physiological changes. They’re probably occurring due to, you know, some neuromuscular changes and some deepening of slightly dusted over pathways in your brain.
Right? So for you, I would just, I’d be okay with not necessarily. Making sure the load was heavy enough. I, I’d kind of let you do it at a, maybe a, a suboptimal r p e if, you know, according to textbooks or what I might recommend. Normally, however, if I was dealing with an advanced lifter who had been training and it wasn’t dealing with, you know, coming back from a layoff, that process might not occur like with you.
Like if you did oh three 15, fuck, it felt like it was 300, and then next week, 3 25 felt like it was three 15. That’s okay. I would just let that go until it stopped, you know, and then you had to actually start working a little. But for someone who was not regaining a certain skill with a movement, if you were to hold them back on that rpe, they might not make that adaptation.
They might not, it might not feel like that. You know, you spend too much time mucking around with four or five RPE and then you’ll find that you don’t make any progress. You know, when you go to heavier weights now they feel heavy . Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I think in that case, I think a lot of people sometimes when they read research especially, or when they hear me read, talk about research, research typically will position two things and compare them because that’s the way it works.
So in my PhD study, like I was saying, you know, I had one group doing, let’s say three by eight at 70%, and the other group is doing say three by eight at a six to eight rpe, just as a, as a random example. But they don’t have to be either or. So one of the things I like to do when I program for people when I first work with them is I give them a set times reps, times percentage of one rm, and then I give them in parentheses, an RPE e target.
So that instruction is, Hey, let’s do that first set at that percentage. And if you are outside of the RPE bounds, then we modify that next set. And then you, you put on the bar what you think will fall in that RPE range. And there can even be more nuance to that. Like if I tell you like let’s hear you are the person who can do 20 reps at 70% and you register like a three R P e, I’d be like, okay, that was a warmup set.
Now you’re gonna go up substantially and load and do it again. Yeah. A really obnoxious warmup set. . Yeah, exactly. Why did I do eight reps? Damn it. I should have done heavier and done like three. So anyway, but for someone who registers, say a nine RPE E or a five rrp, I absolutely count that set and then we adjust it up or down.
And most people, if you know how to program, if you understand those relationships are gonna be close to the target you gave them. And also this, this allows them to, to experi. To see what happens when their personality interacts with programming. If you’re the person who you get that eight r p e with the load I assigned on the first set, I can maintain it.
You know, you’re gonna learn real quick. Oh, that second set was probably eight and a half or a nine, and I had to drop load and then you know, next time, alright, right, so I should probably start around a six or a seven R p e. You get to learn about the rate at which you fatigue, you get to learn about what does your personality push you towards, and how that can be, you know, a pro or a con.
You know, it’s kind of built in some of that philosophy I talked about earlier that underlies autoregulation.
Mike: If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. Talk to us about velocity and RP stops. I think while you’re on the topic for rp, it would be, It’d be relevant, and this is something that I know that you and the mass crew have been talking more about.
I am hearing more and more people talk about it and ask about it. So
Eric: yeah, so R p E is essentially a stand in for velocity. And what I mean by that is that if you were to do a set to failure, your first rep would move pretty quick, and that last rep would be a massive. And that is represented if we were to put a accelerometer on the bar or if we were to use what’s called a, a linear encoder or a linear position transducer, which is basically just a tether that measures displacement and the rate of displacement on the bar and corrects for any changes in angles and tells us the average velocity, uh, of the concentric movement.
And what does
Mike: displacement mean in this context.
Eric: Absolutely. Where the bar starts and where it goes. And the rate at which that occurs. So that is essentially what a velocity is. And it just tells us how fast did that bar move when you tried to move it? And if it moves really slow, that means that we know you’re close to failure.
And that’s a way of measuring fatigue. So for example, if your velocity decayed from your first rep to your last rep by 40%, we know you’d be pretty close to failure in most cases, or maybe failing, depending on how low you can get your velocity, how good at quote unquote grinding you are. RPE does the same thing, and in trained lifters, they have a pretty damn strong correlation, an inverse one.
So meaning when we looked at power lifters who are doing a set to to failure or doing one rms, or if we plotted a whole bunch of sets at different r ps just for singles, we saw, you know, over a 0.8 negative correlation, which means essentially there’s a very strong relationship that as RPE goes up, velocity goes down.
So they’re telling you the same thing. And that’s actually how we validated velocity as a tool that that tells us what we think it’s telling us. So, You can do the same thing with velocity, and some researchers would argue that that is actually a superior, more objective way of doing it. And I think that’s not false.
It is more objective. But at the same time, velocity has some barriers. If you want to use velocity in a commercial setting, you’re probably gonna wanna buy something like a push band or other commercial devices or use like an app, like the Power Lift app and all of these Velocity devices. At this stage of the game where the technology is at currently not as good as some of the lab-based measures that are more expensive, where we have that linear position, transducer, linear encoder, where you actually strap something to the bar that has a tether attached to a device.
And those are highly accurate. They’re very good. But when we start to use an accelerometer in space, which is just uh, something that you’d strap onto you or the bar where we start to try to use motion capture on a camera and then use equations and stuff like that, there are technical issues which limit the reliability and the validity of those velocity metrics.
So you might save some money and you might think you’re being more objective, but it actually might be less accurate than someone who is well trained with gauging proximity to failure. Now, I think it’s important to mention that in trained lifters, r p e is actually pretty damn accurate, especially if they’ve had practice with it.
Cause it’s a skill, it gets better. Your push band. Is only gonna be better when the, uh, the software or the hardware gets updated. But the beauty of being a living organic thinking, uh, creature is that you can learn the skill of gauging proximity to failure. You can look at videos, you can confer with a coach, you could train with the training partner.
You can do a set stop mid set and say, okay, I think I can do two more and then go to failure and see if that was accurate. You can do am wraps and rate the r p E at some point. You know, you can do a set of eight and then keep going. You know, there’s a lot of ways to assess that skill and build it over time.
And you can go through blocks of training to failure. And also
Mike: just generally keep in mind what I like to do is, I still do it now, is just I’m thinking with how many reps do I think I can still do once I get deeper in the set. Obviously not from rep one, but you know, if I’m doing a set of eight by probably four or five, I’m starting to pay attention to what is my intuition on how many reps could I still do, even if it’s uh, you know, off the spreadsheet, 80% for six and I’m hoping to end a couple short, but with isolation exercises I’m able to come closer to, or I generally, I’m gonna come a little bit closer to failure.
And then like you were saying, with some amrap work as well, it just seems to be the, if you work on it, Just consistently by just asking yourself, how many more reps do I think I could do? And then if you do occasionally push yourself to that point, like you’re saying, it does get pretty
Eric: dialed in. Yeah. I think there are some tacit benefits that aren’t.
Quite as obvious, depending on what your goals are. So I’m always surprised when I get pushback from, you know, a power lifter or a strength athlete who doesn’t like this idea. They often come from a very quantitative perspective and they like objective data. And then I look at them and I say, okay, so what are you gonna do on game day?
You’re gonna choose the heaviest weight that you think you can do as close to a 10 r p e as possible so that you can not leave that many kilos on the platform. And you’re telling me that you don’t want to do that in. because that’s kind of flies in the face of specificity, right? , you know, a power lifter or an Olympic weightlifter lives and dies by their ability to gauge how much do I think I can do.
So learning that skill through training with R P E, I think has value in and of itself inherently for strength athlete. Now, for everyone else, I think it’s just a useful awareness for training, but absolutely you can use velocity. There’s, uh, rep one which makes, uh, probably, you know, a highly reliable, valid, probably the most affordable L p t linear position transducer on the market.
I’m aware of. I can get it for about 300 U s d. Don’t quote me on that. Don’t write them and say, Hey, Eric El said I should get this for 300 if it costs more . But
Mike: you’re covering
Eric: the difference, right? Absolutely. Yeah. So, uh, I guess I’m gonna be bankrupt by next week. I’m a good man like that. Yeah, but you know, to give that kind of like a comparison, like Jim Aware, one of the more popular ones that costs like two grand.
You know, so this is like anything else. Anytime we get into tech, we know that it’s gonna get smaller and cheaper and more accurate over time. So you can be an early adopter of velocity, but at this stage it probably only makes sense to use it in S N C sports science team sports settings. Or maybe if you are a strength athlete and you’re like, you know what, I would love to invest in something like this.
You know, I spend that much on fricking protein. I spend three, $400 on getting something that can accurately tell me my velocity, and then I know, you know, when I’m really close to failure, you can use velocity to also confirm or bolster your ability to gauge R P E in proximity to failure. So you said R p E stops and that comes from the same idea as a velocity stop.
I mentioned, hey, if you have seen your velocity de decay by 40%, you’re probably near failure. That’s a way of training. You know, you can decide to start a set at a given velocity target that should, and that does correspond to a given percentage of one M and that’s the magic of velocity. This is something I should mention, I should have mentioned earlier, is that while your one RM will change on a day-to-day basis, the velocity at which a train lifter completes a one RM doesn’t, which is why it’s a valuable tool.
So if you complete a squat one RM at 0.22 meters per second, you’re probably gonna be right around like 0.2 to 0.24 meters per second all the time. Which means that you’re 80%, you’re 85%, your 90 and your 95% of one RM will always be in that same, in in specific velocity brackets with some margin of error and.
even if you, the, the load changes that will still be the same velocity at that percentage. So you can know on any given day what your one RM roughly is and what velocity you should be training at to be at the equivalent percentage of one rm. So that’s the value in velocity based training. You can start at a velocity bracket.
So instead of saying three by six and 80%, you might say, I’m gonna do three by six with my first rep. Velocity between a 0.48 to a 0.52 meters per second. That’s a made up number. Don’t say that’s not exactly 80% for everyone on every movement. And then you can say, okay, I know that when I hit failure I’m at a 0.3 meters per second and I wanna stop a couple reps shy.
And I’ve done a velocity profile on myself. That’s gonna be around 0.36. So you do reps starting around 0.5 and you go till you hit 0.36 and that auto regulates the number of reps. And that’s set, it auto regulates the load and it ensures a consistent amount of fatigue within that set, at the very least.
Mike: And how will you know where your velocity is that, I’m assuming these devices allow you to, is that in front of you? Yes. And you see, okay. And it
Eric: shows you the number, they’re all built so they can display it on a device that’s Bluetooth linked or on the actual L P T itself. The device you have. Now, probably not a lot of people are gonna go out and get a Velocity tracker based on this podcast.
But you can do the same thing with R P E. You’re not a very good L
Mike: P T
Eric: salesperson No, what you’re saying, just wait until I invest in it and my tone will change cuz I am completely ethical and I just want money. Next week, it’ll be like, Hey, guess what? You must buy to get gains. Yeah, you can do the same thing with R P E.
You can have an R P E stop, which you mentioned, Mike. So you start with a load maybe, and then you stop When you hit a certain R P e, that’s one option. So you can just start with a given percentage of one RM and then just do reps until you hit a certain R P e. Or you can try to accumulate a certain number of reps with a given load and then stop each one of those sets at a given rpe so you can control the fatigue.
So for example, let’s say you choose 80% of one rm, but you don’t wanna get too close to failure in any given set. So you have an open-ended number of sets, but you stop each one at a seven or eight rpe. Let’s say you’re a strength athlete who cares about velocity? Like let’s say you’re a sprinter or a thrower and you don’t wanna get grindy, you don’t want to get slow.
Cause there is something to training at higher velocities for making you faster. . So you wanna lift heavy. So you put 80% of one or M on the bar. You don’t know if that’s your 80% of one or M today, but you know it’s still reasonably heavy and you stop each set at a six r p e until you get your target volume.
Now you’ve maintained a high velocity of training cuz you’ve stayed away from failure and also lifted a heavy weight, which might be more appropriate for you. But you know, let’s say you’re training for hypertrophy, you might start with a lower load so it’s easier to accumulate more reps per set and then you go to a hierarchy trained to an eight cause you don’t want to go all the way to failure.
So it takes you, you know, a week to recover. Cause you wanna train again say in 72 hours that same muscle group. But then you can get a target amount of volume while controlling for fatigue and all of this at the very low price of knowing how to count to 10. So my,
Mike: uh, my eight year old, maybe even now, my three-year-old doesn’t count yet, but my eight year old, he can do it.
He can do the rpe, stop that.
Eric: And not only that, but you would actually be about as qualified for me as doing a PhD. So that, that’s the complex math I needed for my PhD. .
Mike: You see that anybody can get a PhD. All you gotta do is count to 10. Absolutely. That’s the state of education now. That’s where we’re at here.
No, that’s great information. One other thing I wanted to ask you and just my own personal question list here regarding Autoregulation is what are your thoughts on auto regulating exercise selection?
Eric: Yeah, so I’m glad you brought that up. And it’s something like wholly outside of the. Kind of the framework of adjusting load, which is where velocity in RP largely sit with some, as I discussed, ability to change volume based on rate of fatigue.
But there’s pretty much, you know, any variable is a potential target of autoregulation. You know, for a bodybuilder, for example, or someone interested in hypertrophy, you can have a collection of exercises that you might consider on the. If you have your days organized in some kind of body part framework, that could be upper, lower, that could be, you know, chest and back, leg, shoulders, arms, repeat, however you want to do it.
So long as you probably follow an appropriate frequency. You can come up with a list of exercises and then select them based on how you feel. Like if you got a little bit of lower back pain, I don’t feel like doing squats today. I’m gonna do like press and the data would suggest, although it’s only a single study by rash and colleagues that came out a couple years back, that trained lifters are quite good at doing this and it might actually result in a faster rate of hypertrophy and better strength gain.
The strength gain, I think we take with a grain of salt because the lifters in that study, they did their strength testing on a number of movements and the autoregulated group did them more often. So is that a function of autoregulation or is that just a side effect of them choosing those movements more often?
But I think ultimately it tells you something about leveraging decisions that. Experts can make cuz you are an expert on you and if you’ve been lifting in your body and thinking about it and you’re not just a total meathead like me for the last 10 years, you probably know something and you might be able to leverage that.
So a good coach or a good system would be able to tap into that instead of it being something that is holy cookie cutter and and wouldn’t change at all. So you can absolutely auto-regulate exercise selection. I think for someone who is really interested in getting strong in a specific movement, this is something you’d probably just relegate to accessory movements.
But for a bodybuilder, I think unless you have concurrent goals of being really good specific movements, you can have a little more freewheeling with that. I think it’s probably applied with the least potential for downsides to low skill movements, single joint movements, movements for hypertrophy, cables, machines, et cetera.
While you might have a little more stability in movements that require a certain exposure to develop that skill, but it’s absolutely something that you can apply in, in specific context with great success. What are
Mike: some of those contexts? You mentioned pain, so if, if a movement is uncomfortable, it doesn’t even have to be painful for me.
I mean, I, I’ll tell people if you feel pain or strange cuz sometimes something feeling weird can turn into pain. What are some other. Reasons why you might want to switch it up, I guess, aside from like, okay, the equipment is in use so you don’t wanna stand around, but
Eric: Sure. Yeah. Yeah, I mean I think it does a couple of things for you.
If you’re even just exposure to this data that switching it up a little more doesn’t negatively impact hypertrophy. You might be like, why am I waiting around for the cable road? Just cuz I have it written down That way, you know the downside is that maybe you don’t know how to progress from last time.
The more trained you get and the less skilled the movement is, the more you can kind of jump in and know that you’re doing some good work and the data would suggest that doesn’t impede hypertrophy. So it might save you some time, you know, for accessory movements in that specific example you said. But I think more importantly, let’s say you just don’t get a great mind muscle connection on certain movements.
You know, speaking from a bodybuilding perspective. You got this program, it says to do cable rows, but you just don’t feel it as much as the specific hammer strength row, so you swap it out. I think we do that all the time. Most people would just swap that for the length of the muscle cycle. They’d be like, right, it says cable row.
I’m just gonna do hammer strength. And everyone would be like, yeah, that’s reasonable. That’s kosher. No one would say that’s a bad idea. But another way to look at it is, okay, now I’ve been doing hammer strength row for, for six weeks. I got two weeks left in this program. The program’s mostly hypertrophy, but it’s, I’m gonna test my bench and my squad at the end.
Those are the, the movements I really care about. But I’m just sick and tired of hammer strength row. Now I’ve done doing ’em for six weeks and I find I just rush through it and I just try to get it done. I don’t place a lot of effort or, uh, at the very least, I’m not very intentful when doing it.
Changing to something that actually gets you to focus, put intent, and be a little motivated and a little more present while training. I think that might have some benefits that might accumulate over time. So I think of course with any kind of proposition like that, you could, you could take it down the slippery slope and be like, well, what if you changed it every single time?
And I think, of course, like you could turn autoregulated exercise selection into the equivalent of within program exercise hopping. Yeah, yeah. Or it just becomes chaos. Exactly. But that’s not what the train lifters did in this study. You know, they stuck with a, a few movements they really liked and milked them.
So understanding that kind of lets us know like, all right, well if we believe that, that well-trained lifters, make. Choices most of the time. Or if we can create a framework that maximizes their opportunity to make good choices and limits the exposure to bad choices. Like, okay, here are the movements where you can do whatever you want.
Like you might write it as, uh, like for example, I, I’ll put bicep curl of choice sometimes on programs. Or horizontal row of choice or chest support of the horizontal row of choice if they’ve got deadlifts the next day or something like that. That’s how I
Mike: think about it. I’ve been doing more of this than I normally would, and I’m ashamed to say that it’s because of Instagram.
It’s, it’s because I need to get training footage. I’m the person who will just eat the same thing every meal, every day for literally years on end and, and if a training program says, do this for two months, I don’t care. I’ll do it for two months. But it doesn’t make for good footage because it’s the same thing over and over and over.
So I’ve been switching up accessory work and I’ve been thinking about it though like that, where I’m like, all right, let me think about the basic movement pattern here. And then that gives me some options so we can get some different pictures and some different video footage while not being completely random about my accessory.
Eric: work. You know? Absolutely. And I think there’s nothing wrong. If your personality is someone who likes to stick to some core movements and just hammer away and milk ’em, that’s great. But I think at the same time, we don’t need to. Rationalize our personality into being optimal post hoc, which is, you know, what humans do with most things.
So I think instead we can go, well, you know, that’s not me, or that is me, and that’s fine. But if it’s not me, and I don’t like originally sticking to a program, but I’ve been told that switching between hammer strength rows and cable rose is somehow gonna hurt me, maybe that’s not the case. Maybe I can have a little more variety, which will increase my enjoyment, increase my intentionality, and over the long run, accumulate actually better outcomes.
If you are the type of person who just can’t stomach doing the same type of curl for two meso cycles in a row, then don’t, and there’s probably no downside to that. I think the only choice we want to limit is if someone is trying to get really good at squatting and if someone is trying to get really good at deadlifting or bench or snatch or, or whatever.
we probably don’t want to take it so far that those movements are gone for multiple weeks at a time. And when we’re trying to build skill with them, there’s absolutely something to be said for, you know, switching up a motor pattern so that you have to complete it under different conditions. And there are theories of motor learning, so you know, kind of like.
Maybe West Side would be an example of this, where you’re always squatting, you’re always deadlifting, you’re always benching, but in different variations and forms. But absolutely, it’s not like the west side lifters did squats once a year. It would be rotated in and out and it would always be something similar to it, but.
I think it’s easy to operate within the schema of power lifting and see that as a high vi variation and then see, you know, a Bulgarian program as a low variation. But the reality is, is they’re all low variations. You’re squatting, benching, and deadlifting once a week, at least all the time. So that would be probably some type of limiter you’d put on the number of choices they can make.
Like you wouldn’t want a power lifter who had the option of three weeks out selecting leg press for an entire week instead of squatting . Like that’s not a good idea. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So I think you need to have some kind of guide rails on the track that serve to prevent bad choices, but also open up choices to, to lifters that that will be neutral to positive.
Mike: Yeah. In my own training, I’m benching, squatting and deadlifting every week. Some variation, whether it be on the benching, it could be barbell. I mean, I’m actually, I’m always doing some barbell, but sometimes I’m, I’m splitting between barbell and dumbbell, and then on the deadlift, it’ll either be the conventional or the trap.
I don’t like sumo. It’s uncomfortable. I just find conventional. Better for the barbell. And on squatting it’ll be, it’ll be the back squad or front squats. And actually there’s the gym I’m going to now, I believe they call it the pit shark. Is that, uh, do you know what I’m talking about? Yeah. You wear, okay, good.
Yeah, I’m remembering it correctly. Interesting machine. I wouldn’t, we’re necessarily replace barbell squats with it, but I’ve done that like after my barbell squat, but I’ve found, By focusing on trying to increase my one RMS on the big exercises, I would throw O H P in there as well, making that the primary emphasis in my training that has produced the best overall results, and partly because I enjoy it.
If I weren’t doing those movements, particularly the the barbell squat or a barbell squad of some kind in a barbell deadlift of some kind, I would miss it. I like those lifts. I look forward to
Eric: them, you know? Yeah. And I think that’s, you know, one of those things that some people who are like, I’m just about training for size.
I don’t care about my lifts. That attitude doesn’t sustain most lifters for a long time because like the relative gains in muscle size are one fourth to one fifth of what you can see in one RM strength. It’s very difficult to get that feed forward. Motivating feedback, you know, like the way video game designers or social media designers plan things is so you can get that I got the achievement, achievement unlocked and mm-hmm.
being able to add a one and a quarter kilo plate or a, you know, a two and a half pound plate to the bar. is that because especially at like our stage of the game, seeing noticeable physique changes can take months at the very least, if not longer. Yeah, yeah. If not longer you, yeah. For me, I have to, like the last time I really was confident that I saw physique changes, I had to diet down to single digit body fat, you know?
So, however, I am still seeing not necessarily linear or even predictable or large increases in performance. Well, I, I am a strength athlete. Let’s say I was a pure bodybuilder. I wouldn’t make that equivalent in my mind to getting bigger, but I would absolutely tell me like, you know what? That probably means I’m doing enough work to be overloading, cuz it’s, it’s showing up on the bar.
Mike: Yeah. At that point, right, you’re gonna gain strength almost certainly by gaining at least a little bit of muscle because your skill is already probably maxed out or close to it, I would guess on the exercises. It’s gonna be hard to. Gain strength without gaining
Eric: or am I wrong? You’re not wrong.
And it’s probably, that’s the calculus I use and that, that’s kind of the paradigm I operate in. I’m also aware that, you know, some people go, well, like, how could you be getting better at the skill? Like, aren’t you done with neuromuscular adaptations? And if you really wanted to drill down, I’d say like, Hey, it’s just because you got stronger, but didn’t see yourself being bigger doesn’t necessarily mean it’s neuromuscular.
Well, it’s so
Mike: subjective. I mean, we look in the mirror and we all have our favorite. We look at our pex and we look at our, maybe our ass . Like there’s a subjective element to did I gain muscle? Uh, yeah. And, and we’re talking about a little amount. And even for people who take measurements, I mean, at least that’s a little bit more objective, but most people are not, at least the people I’ve spoken with, the, the lifestyle bodybuilders as you call them, and I would consider myself, one of them are not taking measurements.
It’s more just how do my clothes feel? What do I see in the mirror?
Eric: And even if you were to get objective, there are some. I would say a minority of of researchers in the S N C field who are skeptics as to how closely related changes in strength in Hyper V are. I think a lot of this is an artifact that just having two short of studies and like I said, the magnitude of change being, you know, four or five times greater in one than the other.
So seeing strong relationships is gonna be hit or miss. There are other things that are happening, like you can see morphological changes that aren’t changes in muscle size, you know, better lateral force transmission. You know, just getting more efficient in terms of the structure of your muscles can be something that is not related to, you know, neuromuscular adaptations.
But I don’t wanna do it like a deep dive on muscle physiology. But the point is, you would think that because muscle size is so closely related to strength and cross-sectional data and if you’re, you’re pretty much training the same and you’re just trying to increase load over time, that at least some contribution of that is gonna be muscle size.
If it discriminates between elite level power lifters of different strength levels, elite level weightlifters, a strong men and women. And if in general we understand that a larger muscle has more contractile tissue, it’s very difficult to create a scenario where, Your strength isn’t at least related to increased muscle size over time.
So yes, is the, the very simple answer to what you said. I would agree with that. That kind of paradigm. Yes.
Mike: Okay. Good. . All right. Last question and then we’ll wrap up. So what advice would you have to people who have listened to now and who are like, okay, how can I incorporate some autoregulation into my existing training program?
And you have already answered this to some degree by just explaining, for example, how R P E works and using RPE stops. But the reason why I wanted to. Kind of reiterating a question. Cause again, you have shared a fair amount of information. It’s just for people wondering, okay, this is where I’m at and what specifically would Eric recommend if I want to put a little bit more of this into my training or do it a little bit differently?
I think we can assume, let’s say that you have people, you’re gonna have a fair amount of people who are doing, who are using double progression, whether it’s with all of their exercises or some of their exercises and then, and then some people with maybe some form of linear progression, probably mostly with their, with their primary exercises.
And if you’ve basically already answered this and there’s not much more to say on it, that’s fine. But I thought I would wrap up with it just in case you have any like kind of simple guidelines that you like to give people who want to work in autoregulation or more autoregulation, like for example, velocity.
It sounds like you’d be like, eh, probably don’t go that route because unless you have a lot of money and you really want to commit to it, but here, do
Eric: these things. Absolutely. No, I can connect some dots and make some very practical recommendations for sure. Like you said, I’m not gonna stop anyone from getting an L P T If they wanna start tracking velocity, that can be pretty cool and fun.
But speaking to probably the plurality of your listeners, I would say the easiest thing to do is start looking through the lens of, okay, how close to failure am I trying to be? And I’m expecting to be to reach my target progressions. And then you can take the existing framework you have that might be, uh, percentage based either of a one RM or a five RM or whatever your programming style is, and you can assign an R P e basically kind of like as a side note with each one of your lifts.
Now, I would say before you start adjusting and changing load or even prescribing load primarily or purely based on r p e, just start rating it. So if you’ve kind of just been a logbook warrior previously and you just do whatever the Excel sheet says and when it doesn’t work, you just, you know, get mad or, and think, I need to eat more or rest more, or take, take creatine.
That’s normal. I get it. I’ve been there. Or maybe you just think the program’s not quote unquote right for me, instead of doing that, just. Rate your rpe. So just train and then see how far from failure you are. Look at video as you can, kind of assess barbell velocity and how difficult it looked and just start writing down without actually changing a load, keeping that program you’re on.
Just writing down your proximity to failure and do it until you’re more confident in those ratings, until you’re starting to feel like, yeah, now that I’m thinking about this every single time I train, I’m probably pretty good at rating it. And I would do that for a few weeks. Even if you’re an experienced lifter, then you can actually start modifying your program to assign an R p E instead of, or in addition to, like I talked about, those percentage or those target loads based on where you think you need to be to complete that progression.
So if you know you got three by five and you’re supposed to get all 15 reps, that means the highest RPE you should see is a 10 on your last set. If you get a 10 on your first set, you’re gonna have to drop. So you can kind of work backwards. What am I intending to do? Okay. I’m gonna just basically explicitly state that in terms of proximity to failure, then that’ll allow you to get the opportunity on days when you’re feeling really fresh and you’re crushing those numbers to go a little heavier.
Or days when you’re feeling really crappy and you’re not quite reaching those numbers, to not get all 15 of those reps, you know, to drop the load a little bit and get the target volume so that you’re actually in line with the intended stimulus and stress that program is supposed to provide. And what’s great
Mike: about that is it just, it lets you ensure that you’re working hard enough in each hard set, right?
And that’s just a very important fundamental, that’s one of the big levers that you need to pull to get more jacked is gotta make sure you’re working hard enough in your workouts and working hard enough in each individual set.
Eric: Right? Absolutely. One of the key components to hypertrophy is having some kind of reasonable proximity to failure.
And if. You know, you’re overdoing that you’re gonna extend the time course of recovery, like AKA training to failure all the time. Or if you’re underdoing that severely, you might see actually less hypertrophy over time. And there’s data to back both of those things up. And probably the sweet spot is somewhere where you’re close to failure.
It’s hard, it’s challenging, but it’s not way short of or always to it. , and that’s kind of the RPE component to bring in what you talked about, autoregulated exercise selection. You can take your low skill, low complexity movements and just give yourself the option of choosing something else if you want to.
And just kind of taking some of your accessory movements off the pedestal because they are them, they’re accessory movements. This does require some amount of understanding kind of exercise classifications. So I generally put things into categories based on whether they’re like horizontal push or pole, a vertical push or pole, you know, a hip hinge or a squat pattern.
And some of those movements are, we’re gonna be more skilled than others, like free weight pushes or poles or free weight, hip hinges or squat patterns. You probably wouldn’t want to change a lot if those are gonna be the ways that you’re expressing and testing strength. But for accessory movements, pure hyper perjury movements, single joint movements, absolutely.
I think give someone the free, give yourself the freedom, I should say, to select those. And one final thing I’d say, Mike, and I’ll try not to go down too deep of a rabbit hole, is there are other forms of autoregulation. Like we’ve talked about exercise selection, we’ve talked a little bit about volume, we’ve talked a lot about load selection, but there are frequency manipulations that you can use a auto of regulation.
You can assess how your warmup sets R p E are, and if they’re way higher than you’d expect them to be, you can make the session easier, you can swap it out with something else, you can delay it. One of the things that I really like to implement that is really easy is to simply, instead of having like a program that attaches to certain days just to have an order, you know, most of the time a good program is constructed so that there’s not overlapping fatigue that prevents you from doing, uh, than the next session.
You know, if you’ve got two days in close proximity, they’re training different muscle groups, or one’s easier and the other one’s harder, that’s typically the way it works. So that means that if so long as they’re done in order, it doesn’t really matter. So like if you come in and you’re supposed to deadlift and you feel like trash and it’s a Friday and you’re not busy on Saturday, Just wait till tomorrow.
You know, nobody cares if you complete a four week program in four and a half weeks, you know, unless you’re actively prepping for a meet. I do that sometimes
Mike: if I’m traveling, just cuz if it’s a long day and I’ve been sitting in a plane for hours and I’m like, eh, I could go do this workout, but it’s probably gonna suck.
I’d rather just do it tomorrow. Yeah.
Eric: And that’s a really, really easy way to, to do training. Doesn’t work great for people who have really strict schedules and not a lot of free time, but for people who work from home, for people who have some flexibility of their schedules for whatever reason, that’s a great way to just.
Basically strike when the iron’s hot and not go in when you’re under motivated or feel like crap. And so long as you’re not like completing a four week program in like eight weeks, it’s not gonna be that different. I think you just need to have some kind of level of common sense with what’s appropriate.
So delaying a workout by a day, or if you feel real fresh and you got an easy day coming up, why not? You can train two days in a row. No big deal. So I think that kind of perspective, that’s one other thing, a way of auto regulating your frequency. What I would say though is when you assess how you feel, I do think it’s valuable to actually go through some kind of like a dynamic warmup.
And this can be done at home. You know, do some body weight squats, swing your arms around, get ready, get yourself. You know, ready to move cuz how you feel sitting in front of your computer after three hours or being on a plane, like you said might be a little different once you warm up. We’ve actually got data that shows subjective ratings of recovery and readiness are more accurate after warming up and taking caffeine than they are before.
Those things when you’re rolling out of bed, like
Mike: a log off of a truck, maybe let yourself get going first before you decide .
Eric: Absolutely. You know, so I think that needs to be said or. You know, someone who’s in a, in a rough spot can basically never feel ready to train. And you do kind of have to train sometimes when you don’t feel great or you’ll be always kicking the can down the road and just getting in worse and worse shape and not having readiness.
Mike: sense. That’s great. That’s very practical, very helpful information. And as always, I really enjoy our discussion. Always learn stuff. So thanks again for taking the time to do this and let’s wrap up with, I think that you should definitely tell people about monthly applications in strength sport and anything else.
You mentioned that you have some books, so if you wanna let people know a little bit about that and anything else that you have coming. Do you have any seminars? People who are still listening are gonna want to know. That means they like you and they, they want to know more. Absolutely.
Eric: Absolutely. Thank you for that.
So the first one is my huge partnership with this new velocity tracker. That is an absolute must for anyone who wants, I’m just kidding. . But yeah, but everybody must get, you must get it or you won’t make gains. But no, uh, an all seriousness, not a lot of whole seminars or anything like that coming up for obvious reasons.
The borders are closed here in New Zealand because we’re free from the zombie apocalypse and we’re not letting anyone in. So if I leave and I come back, I’ve gotta,
Mike: like, except for the billionaires, I keep on reading about all of the massive estates that, well, they can do whatever they want, and whoever they want, no matter how
Absolutely. That’s, these aren’t problems. Yeah. . That’s just the way our society values people. Yeah. That’s capitalism. What do you mean? Yeah, exactly. Uh, no, but in all seriousness, I’m probably not gonna have any seminars or anything like Yeah, I didn’t
Mike: know, cuz you know, now it’s all over Zoom, but some organizations that do a lot of seminars have made that transition.
I just didn’t know if you had anything
Eric: like that. Yeah, there’s definitely like webinars and stuff, but, uh, nothing on the, on the recent horizon. But if you do want to see me giving video lectures and also read stuff I write about more recent. Monthly applications in strength support. That’s myself, Dr.
Eric Drexler, Greg Knuckles, and Dr. Mike Erdos. And we touch into anything related to hypertrophy strength or improving performance with lifting. That’s a monthly research review. Subscribers get access to videos, audio around tables and written articles, discussing the latest research kind of through our lens and trying to help you better be able to interpret it.
So always a fan of anyone checking that out. It is for the Uber nerds. If you’re a little less nerdy and mostly want to just have a logical approach to your own training, then the muscle and strength pyramids are my books on training and nutrition for, uh, recreational or competitive strength and physique athletes.
Mike: all of this gets my fullest endorsement. You know what I would say actually with Mass, I would say it’s applicable to more than just the Uber nerds, and that’s something that I have always really appreciated about the work you guys do is you make it very accessible to layman.
Eric: I’m really pleased to hear that.
Thanks, Mike. I know
Mike: a bit more than a layman about research, but I’m not on your level and I’m able to follow along. I’m able to understand how these studies are conducted, and I love all the additional kind of connective tissue that you put in there to give context to this individual study, which of course is extremely important and.
If you’re wanting to learn about the quote unquote science of something, just looking at one study is rarely like that tells you a little bit. And if that’s the only study on the matter, I guess you could say, well, that’s all we know for now. But your encyclopedia, encyclopedic understanding of this topic and, and also your partners and your co-writers is evident and I really appreciate that as well.
So, you know, I would say it’s applicable to anybody who has enjoyed this discussion, I think will enjoy ma, enjoy mass and will find practical value in it. Like I myself have gotten a lot, I’ve learned a lot from Mass and I’ve been able to improve my programming and just understand better what I’m doing.
So, you know, I credit. You and Greg and Mike a lot for my progression of understanding how all this stuff works. If it weren’t for Mass, I would know less than I do, that’s for
Eric: sure. Well, that’s a, a really appreciated endorsement and I uh, we absolutely write it so it’s not applicable just to Uber nerds, so I don’t know if we’re doing a great job at that, but it sounds like my fears should be alleviated to some degree.
So I really appreciate that endorsement, man. Yeah, and I
Mike: should also mention, uh, Eric Drexler too. I know he is a newer addition, but when you started it, it was you, Greg and Mike, and then now Eric’s on board too and he also, I think his
Eric: contributions are great. Yeah, no, we, it’s also brought more balance to it cuz now we have two bodybuilders.
I don’t get made fun of as much, so it’s good. , you have someone to, he’s got your back. Absolutely. He’s got my back. Tobia .
Mike: Awesome. Well, um, thanks again for taking the time to do this, Eric. I look forward to the next one as
Eric: always. My pleasure man. Thank you for having. All right.
Mike: Well, that’s it for this episode.
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