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  1. #1
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    Quick and dirty guide to intermediate progression

    This guide assumes that you have already chosen a "split" and some core exercises at the least - plus the number of sets per exercise (start on the low end of the amount of volume you think you need).

    This is an autoregulated volume approach best suited for hypertrophy (credit: Menno Henselmans) and includes linear periodization of intensity.

    Reading the EXAMPLE below first can help since this can read a bit like computer program...


    Setup:

    1. Choose which lifts you are going to apply progressive overload to. Usually this is the main compound lift for each bodypart (but doesn't have to be).

    2. Select a high and low rep number that can be done for that exercise. E.g. squats 5-12, pullups 6-15, deadlifts 3-7

    3. Estimate a starting weight for each exercise that you think you could easily get your high end rep number with

    4. Initially, your rep target for each exercise is the highest number in the range of reps you chose


    Running with it:

    1. The first time you use a given weight, in the first set do as many reps as you can with good form, stopping 2 reps short of failure -or when you reach your rep target, whichever comes sooner

    2. For your remaining sets, do as many reps as you can with good form until you reach an RPE 9 or 10 (depending on how safe the exercise is near failure). It's normal for rep count to drop set by set. You don't even have to count, just keep going until you are close to failure.

    3. Next time you do this exercise, add 1 rep to what you got last time (it's fine if your RPE gets closer to 10). Do the remaining sets in the same way as before

    4. Keep doing this until you reach your rep target. Then increase the weight and go back to (1).

    5. If you cannot achieve your target reps, reduce your rep target but you should still increase the weight and go back to (1).

    6. Once your rep target reaches your bottom rep number for that exercise, take a few days off from doing any exercises for that bodypart, maybe select different exercise variants and start again from the high rep number…


    Troubleshooting:

    1. If you don't think you are progressing with a particular exercise - and you aren't feeling badly fatigued then consider adding an extra set to that exercise or a related accessory

    2. If you have a "bad day" and your performance is way below par, consider a reactive deload. This means taking about 25% off the bar and doing the remaining sets as fast/explosive triples. Or avoid doing the remaining sets altogether (deadlifts!)

    3. If you are feeling consistently fatigued and performance is affected across the board, consider taking a volume deload - for the next week just do the first set of all your main lifts using the current weight or a weight that is 1-2 increments lower. You may need to reduce the total number of sets you are doing if you think this is what caused the overreaching.

    4. If you develop joint issues, prematurely end the cycle for this exercise (don't keep dropping your rep target). Perhaps take a few days off training this bodypart and reset to higher reps.


    EXAMPLE:

    For the squat, you think that you can get 12 reps with 200lbs. You think you need 3 sets in a squat session...
    Set rep target at 12 reps...

    Workout 1:
    - first set (RPE 8) 11 reps x 200lbs
    - second set (RPE 9) 9 reps x 200lbs
    - third set (RPE 9) 7 reps x 200lbs

    (only first set shown from here on in)

    Workout 2: 12 x 200 -- target reached! Add weight next time
    Workout 3: 10 x 205 (RPE 8)
    Workout 4: 11 x 205
    Workout 5: 12 x 205 -- target reached
    Workout 6: 9 x 210 (RPE 8.5)
    Workout 7: 10 x 210
    Workout 8: 11 x 210
    Workout 9: 11 x 210 -- could not get 12 reps... reduce rep target to 11 reps.
    Workout 10: 8 x 215 (RPE 8.5)
    Workout 11: 9 x 215
    Workout 12: 10 x 215
    Workout 13: 11 x 215 -- target reached!
    Workout 14: 8 x 220 (RPE 9)
    Workout 15: 7 x 220 -- what the hell? Reactive deload: do remaining sets as 3 x 165 fast reps
    Workout 16: 9 x 220
    etc...

    You can adjust the RPE you use the first time you use a weight to increase or decrease the length of the 'ramp ups' to your rep target. The more advanced you become, the lower the RPE you'll have to start from.
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 07-14-2017 at 01:45 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I think I understand where you're going with this, but the exact logic does not make sense to me. Following the conditions, I don't see how you ever get past step 4. Because you repeat steps 1 to 3 until the condition in step 4 is met. Then you increase the weight, and go back to step 1.

    Unless I'm missing something, this means that you can never get to step 5. It says in step 5 that you go there "If you cannot achieve your target reps...". But if that's the case, the text in step 4 tells you to keep repeating steps 1 to 3.

    Or, to put it more simply: Step 4 always tells you to go to step 1. So you never get to step 5.
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  3. #3
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    The longer you can keep setting RMs at your target reps, the better - but this can't last forever. At some point the repeated bouts effect will make forward progress come to a halt. This is why you reduce target reps - to set RMs in a lower rep range.

    4 only sends you back to 1 if you reach your target. Go to 5 otherwise.
    Likewise, 5 only sends you back to 1 provided that you haven't reached the bottom of your rep range.

    It also lends itself to the mesocycle organisation scheme that some coaches recommend - i.e. starting with a volume or accumulation phase and ending with an intensity phase before finally having to deload and reset and possibly take time off.
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 07-14-2017 at 08:17 AM.
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    am I understanding this properly (possible cliffs)

    - Select a rep range for an exercise and number of sets (i.e: 3 sets of 6-10 reps)
    - Select a weight in which max rep range is achievable relatively easily
    - Aim for maximum rep range on first set (as long as it isn't an RPE > 8)
    - Aim for max rep range for remaining sets (however not necessarily to failure)
    - If you don't achieve max reps, aim for 1 extra rep per set next session, keep repeating till you achieve max reps for all sets
    - If you fail to achieve +1 rep for all sets, increase weight but lower max rep range by 1
    - Rinse and repeat until your maximum rep range meets minimum rep range and then take a deload
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  5. #5
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    Originally Posted by sooby View Post
    am I understanding this properly (possible cliffs)

    - Select a rep range for an exercise and number of sets (i.e: 3 sets of 6-10 reps) Yes but the rep range only applies to the first set
    - Select a weight in which max rep range is achievable relatively easily in the first set
    - Aim for maximum rep range on first set (as long as it isn't an RPE > 8) no, the first time you use a weight, it can be below your target rep range, the idea is to ramp up to that target over several sessions
    - Aim for max rep range for remaining sets (however not necessarily to failure) No, just whatever RPE 9 gives you
    - If you don't achieve max reps, aim for 1 extra rep per set next session, keep repeating till you achieve max reps for all sets 1 extra in the first set - until you achieve your rep target
    - If you fail to achieve +1 rep for all sets, increase weight but lower max rep range by 1 First set only
    - Rinse and repeat until your maximum rep range meets minimum rep range and then take a deload
    I think what may be confusing is that you don't have to hit your "rep target" every session, it's something you ramp up to over several sessions - you start this ramp up phase at whatever RPE 8-9 gives you

    I've updated the OP with an example which hopefully clears things up...
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 07-14-2017 at 08:41 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Thanks for the read SP, interesting as always.

    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    3. Estimate a starting weight for each exercise that you think you could easily get your high end rep number with
    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    no, the first time you use a weight, it can be below your target rep range, the idea is to ramp up to that target over several sessions
    Aren't you contradicting yourself here?

    Perhaps we would understand better if you gave us a specific example. Say I can get 100 kg for 12 reps easily. Where do I go from here? How do I set my starting weight?

    Also, how long do you rest between sets?
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  7. #7
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    Originally Posted by Luca2 View Post
    Thanks for the read SP, interesting as always.





    Aren't you contradicting yourself here?

    Perhaps we would understand better if you gave us a specific example. Say I can get 100 kg for 12 reps easily. Where do I go from here? How do I set my starting weight?

    Also, how long do you rest between sets?
    I understand - the starting weight you choose might be hit fairly quickly (like the first time you do it) but this will soon change as the weight ratchets up. The ramp ups will get longer. The example above shows reaching the first target after only 2 sessions but it gets longer from there. I think the example is a little pessimistic, most people would go for longer before hitting their first rep target reduction.

    I didn't want to specify too many details like rest times, it's just a progression method that I can link people to who already have (say) a PPL set up - but I would use at least 2 minutes and up to 5 for really taxing exercises.
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 07-14-2017 at 09:07 AM.
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  8. #8
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    I see. Thanks for the example, much clearer now!

    Again - how long should I rest between sets? Or should I not concern myself about rest times?

    Also, on spread
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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    I think what may be confusing is that you don't have to hit your "rep target" every session, it's something you ramp up to over several sessions - you start this ramp up phase at whatever RPE 8-9 gives you

    I've updated the OP with an example which hopefully clears things up...
    Ah okay I get it now I thought it was a rep range for all sets, makes sense now. So basically you are mixing true autoregulation (for the latter sets) with linear periodization (for the first set). Where I was getting at was that the end goal was to hit the max rep target but obviously that isn't going to happen as you get deeper into the progression scheme so that the micro goal would be to increase it by 1 rep each session. I may try this progression sometime. I think it's a clever way to linearly periodize but it is dependent on your own performance. I've been hesitant to do so because I suck at RPE lol and I guess just have grown accustomed to defined programming.

    One question though. Say you squat 2x a week and want to employ heavy triples but it is outside your defined rep range (say 5-10). Could you do something like Workout A you employ the progression lined out here and then Workout B you do your triples then Workout A you go back to this progression? As the goal would be to train multiple rep ranges simultaneously rather than having periods of higher and lower rep ranges?
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  10. #10
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    I'm not that great at RPE either The perception I have when I increase the weight is that my body is new to this weight and can feel it's heavier than before. So I am simply 'conservative' when repping - and invariably it feels better the next time and only adding 1 rep can even feel like too little. But I like the idea of 'programming in' submaximal stuff for most of the sessions. I always come unstuck quite quickly when I'm continuously hitting failure.

    re: the triples, you could do that but all I would say is that some of the coaches I've read are very skeptical about short term changes in intensity like with DUP programs. People like Chad Wesley Smith and Mike Israetel think that you can't effectively train for two widely spaced intensity ranges at the same time, it's better to focus on one thing at a time in a mesocycle. I think it's important to be clear about whether you're doing it because you need the high intensity (like for powerlifting) or simply because you want rep variation to aid a hypertrophy goal (which is handled over a longer period by this method).
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  11. #11
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    I'm not that great at RPE either The perception I have when I increase the weight is that my body is new to this weight and can feel it's heavier than before. So I am simply 'conservative' when repping - and invariably it feels better the next time and only adding 1 rep can even feel like too little. But I like the idea of 'programming in' submaximal stuff for most of the sessions. I always come unstuck quite quickly when I'm continuously hitting failure.

    re: the triples, you could do that but all I would say is that some of the coaches I've read are very skeptical about short term changes in intensity like with DUP programs. People like Chad Wesley Smith and Mike Israetel think that you can't effectively train for two widely spaced intensity ranges at the same time, it's better to focus on one thing at a time in a mesocycle. I think it's important to be clear about whether you're doing it because you need the high intensity (like for powerlifting) or simply because you want rep variation to aid a hypertrophy goal (which is handled over a longer period by this method).
    i get the argument there, some guys like Zourdos will argue differently and of course there is powerlifting where you may have your strength/power/hypertrophy days. the argument against pure linear periodization has always been that you lose alot of the adaptations when you move away from a certain rep range.

    However though, strength is strength at the same time and if you truly have gained strength/muscle everything increases so regardless of rep ranges performed. SO I guess as just a lifter who is only seeking hypertrophy these adaptations don't matter as long as you are clearly making progress somewhere.

    However also on the flip side, people argue for non-linear as you don't fully adapt to a certain rep range. There is also evidence out there that NLP > LP for hypertrophy albeit take what you want from it.

    At the same time though you can "linearly periodize" DUP as well. Month 1 you do 12, 10, 8 reps, Month 2 you do 10, 8, 6, Month 3 you do 8, 6, 4, etc, etc. Or you could use NLP but emphasize a certain characteristic in 1 month but maintain the rest of the characteristics at baseline. It gets more complicated so without going on a tangent i'll stop there.
    Last edited by sooby; 07-14-2017 at 11:19 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Thanks for clarifying with regard to the rest times as well!

    May I ask what the logic is behind allowing the sets beyond the first to fall short of the rep target?

    For example, after a good run of uninterrupted progress based on double progression I have recently stalled out on weighted dips, in my current rep range of 4-6 (stuck at 3 x 5 with 5 min. rest periods, just can't seem to be able to get to 3 sets of 6 anymore).
    What I was thinking of doing before reading this post was to reset the weight to one allowing me to complete 12 reps and do it for three straight sets, then proceed using double progression from 10 to 12 reps for three straight sets until I couldn't anymore. Then I would have gradually dropped the rep range to 8-10, 6-8 and so forth. Is there an advantage to having only one rep target set as opposed to the conventional straight set approach?
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    Originally Posted by Luca2 View Post
    Thanks for clarifying with regard to the rest times as well!

    May I ask what the logic is behind allowing the sets beyond the first to fall short of the rep target?

    For example, after a good run of uninterrupted progress based on double progression I have recently stalled out on weighted dips, in my current rep range of 4-6 (stuck at 3 x 5 with 5 min. rest periods, just can't seem to be able to get to 3 sets of 6 anymore).
    What I was thinking of doing before reading this post was to reset the weight to one allowing me to complete 12 reps and do it for three straight sets, then proceed using double progression from 10 to 12 reps for three straight sets until I couldn't anymore. Then I would have gradually dropped the rep range to 8-10, 6-8 and so forth. Is there an advantage to having only one rep target set as opposed to the conventional straight set approach?
    I think the idea there is to allow for rest and recovery while getting in the sufficient amount of volume for progress, training submaximally. The first set is what determines whether you progress or not and the rest of the sets allow for auto-regulation based on how you feel that day.

    So essentially it becomes an argument of whether you should hit a certain amount of reps risking failure and higher fatigue or regulate your fatigue based on how you are feeling that session so that you can recover from session to session. Another way thinking about auto-regulation is think about the amount of reps you could do on your worst day (RPE 6 on a good day?); and set that as your minimum and the maximum amount of reps would be your ?RM minus 1 rep. I think that helps put a defined number on what you should aim for while at the same time managing fatigue.

    So for example if your 10RM on squats is 250 lbs. You would probably set your weight to let's say 240 lbs and set your rep range from 7-10. A weight in which you should be able to do 10 reps fairly easily. Then for the other sets you would pick the minimum amount of reps you could do no matter how chitty the day is (say 6 reps) and do that.
    Last edited by sooby; 07-14-2017 at 01:37 PM.
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  14. #14
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    The reason that you just do as many reps as you can manage is that it's a form of autoregulation - based on how much energy you have on that particular day. Click the link in the OP (where it says Menno Henselmans) for more details.

    In the case you are describing, it sounds like it would be worth adding another set to dips. It's not so easy to work out if this is helping or not if you are doing sets across - but it's a piece of cake if you use AVT because the first set is your gauge of progress rather than all the sets.

    By the way, I'm grateful to you guys for seeking clarification - it helps me improve how readable it is.
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    Originally Posted by sooby View Post
    I think the idea there is to allow for rest and recovery while getting in the sufficient amount of volume for progress, training submaximally. The first set is what determines whether you progress or not and the rest of the sets allow for auto-regulation based on how you feel that day.
    This makes sense, thanks!
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    The reason that you just do as many reps as you can manage is that it's a form of autoregulation - based on how much energy you have on that particular day. Click the link in the OP (where it says Menno Henselmans) for more details.
    I am definitely going to read/watch more stuff by Menno - thank you for making his work known on the forums.

    I wonder, though, whether autoregulation may be more or less suited to different lifters and even personality types.

    For example, in my case I can say that, unless I have a bout of truly, truly poor nutrition and sleep on the previous day, my strength levels hardly fluctuate between one workout and the other, i.e. I hardly ever have particularly "good" or "bad" days. Furthermore, I tend to be a bit OCD about having to increase or at least maintain strength from workout to workout, and am not sure that it would be mentally easy for me to allow such fluctuations, even if only on sets after the first one.
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    Registered User psychoswim's Avatar
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    I really like the looks of this. When you hit step 6 and reset to the higher rep range, you once again decide what weight to start with (which would most likely have increased)? You say it is more geared towards hypertrophy, do you think it would work with slightly lower rep ranges as well? I will try it once paddling season is over.
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    Originally Posted by psychoswim View Post
    I really like the looks of this. When you hit step 6 and reset to the higher rep range, you once again decide what weight to start with (which would most likely have increased)? You say it is more geared towards hypertrophy, do you think it would work with slightly lower rep ranges as well? I will try it once paddling season is over.
    Yes, you should increase your starting point over time - if you select different exercise variations it might be hard to tell though.

    You can use lower rep ranges if you want. Strength training is specific to application - ask yourself if you need a 1RM or repetetive effort. You also need to time the peak of your performance (and specificity) to coincide with whatever event you are competing in. But that is out of the scope of this discussion.
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Yes, you should increase your starting point over time - if you select different exercise variations it might be hard to tell though.

    You can use lower rep ranges if you want. Strength training is specific to application - ask yourself if you need a 1RM or repetetive effort. You also need to time the peak of your performance (and specificity) to coincide with whatever event you are competing in. But that is out of the scope of this discussion.
    Thank you!
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    This reminds me of one of those old-school Robert Kennedy programs. Works for me:
    Progress reps until satisfactory number is sustained; add weight and repeat. Recover as necessary.
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    More interesting stuff SP, I know you are reluctant to sticky your posts but do you ever store the guides you write anywhere else? As they inevitability disappear under the torrent of newbie posts.
    My workout journal. Currently running 5/3/1 https://igoodies.000webhostapp.com/?viagra=showthread.php?t=173793371
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    I've been reading Poliquin Principles and have so many questions about why I don't see a lot of things mentioned in practice around here but this is similar to Method 1 in the Rest Intervals chapter. I appreciate seeing how a different technique can be applied. Thanks for posting.
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    Great write up SP my friend...

    A simple process, but hard to put into words..
    Similar to "listening to your body" being simple, once got "get it' but hard to pin down and explain. #autoregulation

    Push reps, and add weight in a sensible range till you can't push any more, lower reps and keep pushing reps and weight until you bottom out .. Deload, rotate, repeat.
    The right answer is usually "it depends"...
    And those that talk in absolutes should almost certainly be ignored unless you want to buy their stuff.
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    Thanks for the comments guys.

    You don't see many articles about programming compared to other topics but another good one just published on Gregs site:
    https://www.strongerbyscience.com/we...d-progression/
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    Simplified version:

    At the start: For each exercise, pick a weight you know you can get 1 set of 12 with easily.


    Workout 1: on each set do as many reps as you can, leaving 2 reps in the tank. If you get more than 12 on the first set, increase the weight and repeat workout 1 next time.

    Workout 2: on each set do as many reps as you can, leaving 1 rep in the tank.

    Workout 3: on each set do as many reps as you can. Next time, increase the weight and start back at workout 1 again.


    Note: if your first set performance drops to 5-6 reps at any point, switch up that exercise for something similar and repeat the process.
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    Do you suggest microading if you have micro plates available? For example increasing the3 weight by 2.5lbs instead of 5lbs. Makes more sense for long term progress to me.
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    Originally Posted by WillG48 View Post
    Do you suggest microading if you have micro plates available? For example increasing the3 weight by 2.5lbs instead of 5lbs. Makes more sense for long term progress to me.
    Certainly can for lifts that use less weight like overhead press. For other heavier lifts it might make the process take an artificially long time. You have to fine tune the rate of progression to suit what your particular needs and abilities are.
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    Team No Calves Luca2's Avatar
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    Bump + mini weighted dip log as promised

    Reset today after being unable to get to 6 reps @+67.5 kg.

    @+45 kg, rep target 12
    1 x 10 (RPE 8)
    1 x 11 (RPE 9-10)
    2 x 8 (RPE 9-10)

    Thought I would be able to get 12 on the first set, but felt I only had 2 more reps in me at 10 so I stopped. Will go again in a few days' time!
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    Nice. Yeah, I think you should do the mini ramp up to your target even if it feel submaximal. The number of reps done in the backoff sets will self adjust in any case. It looks like that's exactly what happened.

    I'm going to have a think about how to do low rep sets using this system - something like sets across / cluster sets.
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    Weighted dip log continued...

    @+45 kg, rep target 12
    1 x 11 (RPE 9)
    1 x 12 (RPE 9.5)
    1 x 8 (RPE 9)
    1 x 8 (RPE 10)

    I have noticed that the mental aspect is quite difficult for me during the backoff sets. As someone who is used to going into every set thinking "I will get X reps", I find that I still struggle to accept that I will perform better on some days and worse on others. That said, I do find autoregulation to be great for ensuring that I maintain proper form and avoid burn-out, and will be sticking with this provided that I am able to progress!
    "Listen, I want you to come down here and go dancing with me and we'll have fun together. You know you like The Spaniard, you know you like The Sith Lord, you know that. Hello? You're blushing, I know you're into The Sith Lord, I know it! Hello? Hello? Helloooo? Aww I lost connection."
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