Forgive my radio silence: Feldenkrais training and other writing assignments have kept me tied up. Last night I started a huge entry for this blog, and, as luck would have it, I lost much of it due to a technical glitch. I'll polish that one up at a later time--and, for now, leave the issue of posture for a later date, to make this point--or, I should say, pose this question to my readers who strength-train regularly.
Quite honestly, how many real work sets do you have in you during the average strength-training workout?
To my knowledge, this has never been discussed or addressed in any depth in fitness literature, and it may be the major limiter in how much you can hope to achieve in a given workout--and thus how much you can hope to achieve over a week, a month, a year of exercise.Â
I'd estimate that, for the average non-drug using exerciser, the answer is somewhere around 20-24, and I'd be interested what other people think. This has been my experience: 20-24 sets is about when I start to flag, and it's about when I see my clients start to check their watches and ask when it's time for their stretchy-massagey time that I sometimes reward them with if they've been good.
I imagine this capacity can be increased...somewhat. But it's largely going to be contingent on the amount of glycogen in the muscles, which is a finite capacity. If you get really big and bulky, your muscles will hold more glycogen, but then of course, you'll also burn more because you're lifting heavier weights. Plus there's the hormonal angle, which suggests that your testosterone level starts to plummet after about an hour of training.
Unlike endurance athletes, who can train and train and train themselves to burn fat for fuel--a virtually limitless power source, even in lean people--and thereby learn to go relatively comfortably for hours and hours, a strength-trainer's workout is inherently much more time-bound.
So: you can lift for about an hour. Less warm-up, cool-down, and praying to the great Sandow in the sky to endow you with strength and fitness--and assuming that each 'set' and the rest you need to take eats up about 90 seconds, that probably translates into about 20-24 sets.
If you're doing really low reps--like, less than five per set--you might be able to do more. If you're going super-light, you might be able to do more. I'd float the idea that medium-high-reps--in that good ol' fashioned 10-15 range, as long as you're working near your maximum, might be the MOST taxing of all, and allow fewer sets per workout. What type of exercises you choose will also affect this number, but I'm assuming that most people reading this already favor multijoint compound moves--the most taxing exercises in the weight room. If you're doing lots of wrist curls, you can probably go on forever.
Anyway, even if I'm not right, I suggest that you probably have your personal parameters for how many sets you can hang with in a given workout, and that no matter whether you choose full-body workouts or splits of some kind, those numbers are going to stay pretty much the same.
Comments? As usual, the floor is open to debate.