How do you go about sequencing your training? Joining me on the show today is Keiran Halton and Ryan Patrick. The three of us dive into what it means to sequence your training and how you can produce massive results by doing so. We constantly see athletes struggling to produce the results they want in a short period of time, and a lot of that comes down to how we are appropriately lining up our training elements to continuously build strength.
The big question we see athletes face is whether to focus on work capacity, hypertrophy, strength, or power and the specific order these training blocks and phases should go in. We also see athletes struggling to know how often to switch up their main lifts and accessory work. The three of us go into detail on when the perfect time to have a phase change is and how changing up your training blocks can help your PR numbers skyrocket.
The back end of the episode is surrounding the benefit of inverting your set and rep scheme in your training. From a strength and skill standpoint, inverting your reps allows for better skill acquisition and ultimately helps ensure high quality reps over poorly executed reps. Tune in to discover how you can sequence your training to unlock massive results in record time.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [08:20] Perfect time to have a phase change
- [11:27] Two things competing in sequencing
- [15:10] The diamond approach
- [18:48] How often you should be changing exercises
- [21:25] The purpose of your accessory work
- [24:30] Using the different seasons to choose training phases
- [30:36] Developing skill by understanding myelin
- [31:30] Inverting your set and rep scheme
- [42:25] The importance of the complexity and variability line
- [45:11] Choosing the right exercise variation for you
- [46:15] Potential barriers
James Cerbie: Otherwise, let’s jump into the episode today with Ryan and Keiran. No, no. What he really likes to do is he will let himself outside using his dog door, but he will not use it to come back in. So it defeats the purpose because he just let himself out. And then he sits at the back door and he just barks until I go to open the door for him like, you asshole. Granted, it is 100% my fault because we let him out of the bedroom one morning because we have the double doors and open to the backyard.
And then we didn’t take the cover off the dog door. So he came in hot one morning, like, coming back in the house and just smoked his face on the cover one time, and now he refused to come back through the dog door.
Keiran Halton: And now he won’t let it go.
James Cerbie: Oh, no, yeah, it was once he learned he’s like, I don’t go through that because that hurt my nose.
Ryan Patrick: Oh, man.
James Cerbie: I am glad about football there, though. It is like, I am so happy. Loving Kelsey’s a little over it already. She’s like, Are we really going to watch football again? I’m like anything else last year didn’t count. So I’m like, a full almost 24 months without real football. I love Saturday College football. It’s been great. My Panthers played last night. That was a little bit depressing, though. I never get to see them play ever because of our location, like, they just don’t ever get shown here on TV. And so I’m like, all right, there’s a football I can actually watch whenever I turn the game on.
First drive. Amazing. We look unbelievable at R drive. Boom, boom, boom. Super-efficient. Christian McCaffrey looks incredible. Touchdown next drive. Christian McCaffrey pulls his hamstring out. I don’t know how long it’s going to be and I was so depressed. I really I never get to watch you play, bro, and they’re gonna go pull a hammie doing, like, a high step Juke or something along those lines.
Ryan Patrick: Darnold looks awesome.
James Cerbie: Darnold looks really good. He’s been really efficient, really accurate. Had two rushing touchdowns last night. There was a major adjustment period there, though, because I think McCaffrey got hurt in the second quarter. We were averaging eight yards of play when Christian McCaffrey was still healthy and playing, and then he came out of the game and we averaged two yards of play for the next, like, quarter and a half until we made some adjustments in the fourth quarter and then started to pull away. But the offense revolves around the great white hope.
Ryan Patrick: Yeah.
James Cerbie: It’s also just nice, like getting to watch these athletes, because for me, when I think of this total package athlete concept, I tend to think football more than anything like middle line back or free safety. Strong safety, running back because no offense to other sports. Like, I played baseball. I love baseball. You freaking baseball. But you don’t really get to see people flash the athleticism, like the strength and the power and the speed like you do in football. You see crazy Kangaroos and basketball, but you just like, you don’t see the dude that’s 260 running a four four just absolutely annihilating some dude just like, this is so incredible. This is just awesome. I love watching this or you watch it.
Ryan Patrick: There’s a lot of positions now you don’t necessarily need skill with the ball. You can just be a freak.
James Cerbie: Exactly. Yeah. Another thing that is, I really love watching, especially when you have a good running back or slot receivers that are unbelievably fast, and their cut are just stupid. Especially it’s the cut off your inside leg, because not many people can do that when the people are basically running on a 45 degree angle to their left, full speed, and then they fucking throw a cut off their inside right foot and go back that way. And then everybody just keeps running in this direction that I’m like, oh, my goodness, that’s nasty.
Keiran Halton: The fact that you’re doing it to those CDs who are also the fruits of the tree is like saying something.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I know, but we’re not going to talk about football for the entire show today, although we could, it would be totally fine just having that episode. We do nothing but talk football for an hour. I don’t know if our listeners would really appreciate that, but it’s going to be a little bit of a shotgun episode. Shotgun blast. We’re going to hit a couple of different topics and things not stay on any one topic, but just wide, wide scope today. And what we’re going to start here is this concept of phase change.
So I’ve used that in a couple of different languages. I’m thinking of more block periodization here, right. We go through blocks of training emphasis. You could also think of it as phases. I go through phases or sequencing of programming in terms of what we’re going to focus on right now. And there’s kind of the spectrum that exists. And we were texting back and forth about this a little bit before we jumped on, right. Like, we have people that are in need of changing things up a little bit more often for free.
They need this phase change to come in. For example, I have a bunch of people finishing the total package track, like their program and the training team right now, and they’re crushing PRS, like, one guy’s like, hey, dude, I just pre 14 out of the 16 metrics we tested in. I was like, nice, right? But it gets pretty aggressive. And by the time you’re wrapping up a training cycle, that’s 14 weeks long, you start to feel it here a little bit, beat up your joints and things along those lines.
The Perfect Time to Have a Phase Change
And so that’s a perfect time for us to then have a phase change. We need to change our focus, need to change our emphasis. We need to totally change exercise selection. Potentially, let’s just go do something totally different for three to six weeks and just let you kind of come down and recover, give you a different stimulus, let you have fun. So that’s the people on one side of the spectrum. But then, Keiran, you had mentioned right when we take people that have this lower training age and like, well, I need muscle confusion because if my muscles aren’t confused, you’re never going to get any bigger because science.
But when you have a lower training age, you don’t want to change things nearly as often. You need way more than just repetition and exposure and skill building. And so that training age is, I think, a really good metric to base off of. When we’re thinking about how often we are alternating and changing blocks or phases of training with different emphasis. How often are we changing exercises? The sequencing concept in programming, which is so important. So I think that’d be a really just a good place to start today and then we’ll get going from there.
So, Ryan, I don’t know if you want to lead the charge here because you are the one that originally kind of paying the concept of sequencing, which I thought would be a really good topic for today, especially when we’re talking about the type of athletes we’re working with here. We’re not trying to just get good at one outcome. Like, our goal is not just to be strong and a squat bench and deadlift. Our goal is to be strong on a squat bench and deadlift, but still be able to jump, sprint and cut and still have endurance and still move really well and still be jacked.
And so the conversation changes when we add more variables. But I’ll let you just kind of kick off with some thoughts on this topic.
Ryan Patrick: Yeah. I think for the traditional client that we work with inside of Rebel and the programs that we offer the strength the stamina are going to be kind of the two big things. We’ve definitely got some element of speed. Those are kind of your three primary domains that we’re going to accomplish and, you know, going all the way back. I know we mentioned silver back a lot, but that was the first I think realization for me about what is possible in terms of maximizing potential in multiple directions at once, because at some point there is going to be interference.
The training that I do to be strong can interfere with conditioning and vice versa. And speed is a completely different animal in terms of muscle contraction, velocities and turnover compared to strength. So there are competing elements here. But I think for the average person, if it’s structured well, they can take these pretty far out for a pretty long period of time. I would say if you’ve specialized in some kind of training, whether power lifting or just kind of your functional training, and you really take a methodical approach to this, I think most people have at least two to five years to push the boundaries in all directions simultaneously.
Two Things Competing in Sequencing
I really believe that’s possible for the average person listening to this now, as far as sequencing, there are two things that I feel are kind of competing. One is this concept of I’m going to work on this component, and then I’m going to work on the next component and then the next component kind of this block periodization, if you will, on the other side of the spectrum is you have this vertical integration
where there’s a threat of everything at all times. So what it comes down to me is ultimately we’re discussing the consolidation of stressors.
How much stress do I need to apply out, whether it’s volume or intensity for a specific outcome that I’m looking for and how much potential do I have to recover? I think everyone’s got a limited amount of adaptation, so it’s like a budget. If I’ve got $100 to spend, I can only allocate so much in certain places because at some point they either interfere with each other or my ability to recover from those is insufficient, and I start to get a negative outcome. So where I kind of end up towards the end of this process, is that okay?
You’re insanely strong. You’ve got great speed, great conditioning. But now you need more focus training to really push that up. The nice thing is maintenance and maintaining progress is much, much easier from a volume and intensity standpoint than it is to make progress. So it almost kind of becomes a thing where you still have this vertical integration where everything’s there, a few things are just going to be put on the back burner, just enough volume, just enough intensity to maintain the progress you’ve made. And I’m okay if you’re one rep, your limit strength does back off just a little bit while we push other things up.
But I may have to push that threshold on speed or conditioning up. Maintain that for a period of time, because now I’m hitting a lot of the same exercises in doing a lot of the same things, and I’m starting to overtrain. So I just want to maintain that. Now I’m gonna go back and focus on my strength and just you kind of end up getting the stacking of place, you know, with one versus the other. And again, when we talk about these professional athletes, they’re insanely fast, but they’re not sprinting fast.
They’re incredibly strong, but they’re not power lifters, but they have to find a way to balance all the traits that they want to develop in many cases, when they’re at that level. You do have to have periods of time where there’s some focus training and periods of time where you want to maintain, but not D training. So what do you guys see?
James Cerbie: Keiran? Do you want to jump in on that? And then I’ll go after you?
Keiran Halton: Yeah. Like, the big thing. I think you were Haron. There was the vertical integration piece, and, you know, almost like that dimmer switch analogy or, like, what we talk about a lot is like, the video game, like, your character attributes, right. Like, we’ve all played the games or like, we’ve been able to stack all those up because we just stuck with the video game long enough. And I think that’s all, like, your listing or your training career has to be like, if you always just have that as your, like, central marker, you’re just going to, like, kind of come back after maybe a strength block and reassess, like, do I have a limiting factor right now, or am I working towards a competition or something?
Where now I need to switch the emphasis. But to your point, like, the maintenance is so much easier once you put into work to build that up. Like, I think to your point after Silverback, I don’t think I’ve lost a lot. And I probably just gained a little bit more on top of each thing. But I’ve switched the emphasis of pretty good, like, experimenting with different things. Yeah. I totally agree with that. And then one thing that I really like that I was thinking about as you were talking about the muscle confusion and the sequencing and stuff I always come back to like, I heard Tony Gentle core talk about this first, and I think he got it from Greg Robins or somebody else over there.
The Diamond Approach
But, like, the whole, like diamond approach to programming where, like, the beginners probably need less variation and more specific, like, time spent with just the basics, like the bottom third of the diamond. And then as you get to the middle, two thirds, like, where the diamonds at its widest. That’s where you can start adding some more variety and things like that into the programming. And that’s your intermediate lifter. That’s where most of us probably are. And also to your point, right. Like, your pro guys, your high level athletes, guys with going to their strong man nationals or powerlifting like that’s when you start cutting the variety back a little bit as you get to the peak of a diamond.
Right. And I think that’s another really easy way to think about it. You know, when you are sequencing, that is like where you peek in the diamond and how important is it to add a variety or take that away so either you can learn it or you really start peaking for your competition or concept.
James Cerbie: I like that analogy a lot. I think the diamond makes a lot of sense, because when we have newer athletes with a lower training age, they need more time and repetition and less variation. So we can actually build up the skill of whatever movement we’re trying to do. And then as we get to the broad part of the diamond, now, we have a ton of options. And the broad part of the diamond is where 99% of our people are going to live, because most of our people aren’t going to want to actually go to the peak of the diamond, where you’re going to specialize in one very, very, very specific thing to become the best in the world of this one very, very, very specific thing.
Right. So when we’re at this part of the diamond and we’re thinking about a training program putting together, say, a twelve week training cycle, right. More or less, you have three months of training. So in a test in we can attest that week, we have 14 weeks. So when we’re thinking about sequencing within one program and then between different programs, you have to really start off with, like, what’s the theme? What am I trying to prioritize and chase over these next twelve weeks? Right. Do I want to focus more on hypertrophy work capacity?
Do you want to focus more on strength? I want to focus more on power. Right. And you got to start with the theme first, and then you can track your way back down to the actual nuts and bolts of what I’m going to be doing within the program and how long that phase should realistically last, because I think in any training program and I’m thinking about it. If we boil it down to the simplest version possible, if we’re thinking twelve weeks, then the front end of that is going to be more work capacity, because if one’s going to be higher, the middle chunk of that is going to be more strength oriented.
And then the back end of that will probably be a little bit more power oriented. Right. And then you can scope that out and think over the course of a longer period of time to say, okay, what makes a lot of sense from a sequencing standpoint is high purchasing work capacity both to get bigger muscles and then to give you the capacity to handle more workload and volume, take that into a strength cycle where then I can apply and teach these bigger muscles to then generate more force and then take that and put it into power so that I have the ability now to generate more force.
Now let’s teach myself to generate it rapidly. And I think that’s a cycle that you can just run yourself through on repeat. Right. And if you think about an actual training program itself and we think about this exercise selection or exercise variation, how often should I be changing exercises? For me personally, you’re going to have a main lift, and that main lift is going to stay consistent over the course of a training program. That’s the big bilateral bread and butter. That’s where we’re getting the majority of our physiologic change, an adaptation that does not change for me over the course.
But program what we’re going to call it just twelve weeks of training right now. So for three, four week microcycles, we’ll give you my whole training program. Main lift is not going to change over the course of that. That is staying the same. What will be changing and varying a lot are the set and rep schemes. The accessory movements for me are where it’s the exact opposite situation. I’m changing accessory movements every four weeks, but then the set in rep scheme on those really doesn’t change much.
How Often You Should Be Changing Exercises
It’s going to be a double progression. If it’s going to be a secondary output is probably going to be six to eight rep ranges. If it’s going to be more of a true accessory, it’s going to be eight to ten reps, ten to twelve reps, twelve to 15 reps. So my set and rep scheme doesn’t change much of my accessories, but I do alternate and change exercises every four weeks, because when I think about programming, I think of this sensory to output or sensory to intensity spectrum, and I tend to start my accessories on the far side of the century scale, and then I wave them up over the course of a program.
So we’re in the final phase of the program. It is going to be our most intense phase that I’m trying to peek at, but that’s going to come at a cost. You’re going to come out of that final phase feeling a little bit beat up, which is fine, because then we need to cycle back and then we have a sequence and we change and we go to a new phase, right. And that’s where it’s like, okay, now let’s talk about changing the main lift. Let’s give you a different input, right?
We just safety of our squad at our ass off for twelve weeks. Maybe it’s time to go to a leg press or a hack squat or a pendulum squat now, right. And so that’s just a small glimpse into how I think about the sequencing and the changing of things over time, because one of the mistakes I see is people will change that main lift way too often. And that’s got to say that’s the show, right. We don’t want to change that too often. Where you’re going to get a lot of your variation and exercise selection will be more the accessories. What are you guys’ thoughts on that as a scheme we got, right?
Ryan Patrick: I think the first key for somebody looking at their training is identifying those big list. What are the ones that are gonna give you? What are the KPIs really like? Wood ones actually are a value, because if I get super strong and lunge, I mean, that’s not that’s not really the end goal. I want to translate that to bilateral power. So again, the accessories are to, you know, fill in the gaps from a movement standpoint, from the standpoint of giving me things that I’m not getting out of that main list.
So once you identify that now, when I look at the training, a lot of it is just kind of this reverse engineer process. Where am I trying to take this person? And, you know, what are the biggest deficits right now? And so then you kind of backtrack to phase one and you’ve identified, you know, these three or four things are going to give me the outcome that I’m looking for. They’re going to be at least a proxy for performance and whatever domain it is. Okay. Now it’s how am I going to progress over the next three months?
And then what accessories are going to continue to add into that? So I follow a very similar process to what you just described. The main list is the main lift. I mean, they’re tried and true, they’ve been tested for years. We know what they are. I don’t even have to go into a lot of detail about that. But at the same point, I can’t just hammer bilateral stuff because there’s going to be consequences to that from a movement standpoint, which is really valuable for some of the athletes.
The Purpose of Your Accessory Work
So that’s where the accessory work does come in and has a lot of value. That’s where you’re going to be able to get some hip internal rotation. You’re going to be able to work on some overhead movement and just kind of build a foundation. So, you know, that’s usually how I’m thinking about it. When I’m lining these phases up, back to back to back, I want to know not just what this particular phase that I’m in right now, what it’s accomplishing for me, but how it’s setting me up for success at the next phase and ultimately to peak.
So that idea of phase potentiation or just in general, it’s just sequencing. What can I do now to get me to this level and then to get me to that level instead of looking or projecting twelve weeks down the line, I’m not gonna be able to do the same stuff. Back to back to back to back for twelve weeks and get to where I want to go. So there has to be some level of progression. You know, volume in those early phases has a lot of value for just work capacity for tendon and connective tissue health and building.
Some of that stuff is on a little bit slower recovery cycle. And then it sets you up for a really aggressive strength phase that you’re prepared for. So if you’ve done strength phases back to back to back, like when I did powerlifting, I mean, it’s just brutal. It is absolutely devastating to keep that intensity that high consistently. And then, of course, you go in that last phase, you know, I show time. You’re gonna try to take those fatigue masks off. You want to start to exploit some of the things that you’ve developed and ultimately kind of reach this intersection where fatigue is at the lowest, fitness is at the highest, and you have the performance you’re looking for.
And then you kind of go back to work and re-evaluate. Where do I need to go? And you reverse engineer it again?
Keiran Halton: Yeah. There’s so many ways you could look at, like how to, like, structure, like the long term plan of like that the face potentiation and stuff. And I just get so much stuff going. But another kind of, like, simple approach, I think that sums a lot of this up pretty well is Dan John season of strength, you know, depending on what time of year it is. Right? Like, winter, you can go, like, nice and heavy. You’re just going to be stuck in the gym all the time, all the way out to the end of summer, where all of us like to get out to the track or start playing more sports.
And that’s where power and speed are going to be a little more dominant. So even if you just look at your yearly calendar, like, training set up, you can always just kind of base it off that and then depending on your point, depending on what phase you’re in. Right?
Like, your strength phase is probably going to be a lot of big, bilateral, brutal exercises like that where you’re probably going to be feeling it coming out of the winter. Deal should be ready to go heading into it, right. It’s going to be a nice long winter of you just banging weights and stuff. But then as you get to, like, the spring and stuff like that now, depending on your goal, that’s when you could start selecting the right exercises for that phase. Right. Like talking about, like, if you’re going to do, like, sets of a wrap sets in your program, like, I would much rather do that on the like, press, then a barbell back squat just got to feel a lot better.
Keiran Halton: It’s a lot easier.
James Cerbie: Like to pick the right tool for the job. Set yourself up for success.
Keiran Halton: Yeah, totally. And, like, a lot of the muscle confusion, selecting different variation stuff. There’s just, you know, it’s almost like people look at training or something, like, totally different from sports. But, like when I was playing basketball every day, you start off just working on your shooting technique right under the rim no matter how old you are. Right. So it’s always, like, coming back and just trying to get better at the basics and there’s skill to lifting. Right. Like, I’ve been trying to be a better squatter for the last four years.
So, like, every phase of trying to pick something to work on, right? Like, at first it was just finding a better stack. So there’s a lot of SSP or front squats and any anterior load. And then it gotta be like, alright, let’s see how I could push the range on this. Now I’m doing more hand supported work or things like that.
And sometimes it’s even as simple as going from like, a wide stance, you know, say you’re used to pulling sumo and stuff, and now he’s kind of like kind of hit a wall or whatever net was. Why don’t we do, like, a narrow or a conventional poll and then see how that works? So sometimes you’re always just trying to develop your skill in those movements. And sometimes the variation is a lot smaller to your point gains. Right. But sometimes it’s just changing the sets, reps, tempo, stance, whatever.
Sometimes the variation you need for the muscle confusion, air quotes is a lot smaller than what people think.
James Cerbie: Yeah, the multiple confusion thing is just a riot. It’s so funny to me.
Keiran Halton: They’re really smart. They’re hard to confuse.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I know. The more confused the muscle is, the more it’s going to grow. It just has nothing to do with physiology. It’s just not how a muscle and a physiologic system adapts. It needs a repetitive stress exposure so that it will up regulate certain components, like enzymes or muscle tissue. And you have to give it a repetitive stress exposure to do that. And then at some point we’re on a law of diminishing returns. So you start to round out the curve and as the curve starts to round out, okay.
We need to change. Right. And that’s just what a training cycle is going to look like. Realistically it is curve one in the first four weeks. Curve two, curve three. Beautiful. It’s a stair step fashion, right. Because somewhere in that four to six week range is usually where people are going to be really tapping out with how I write programs, the accessories, their capacity to progress, weight and load on their accessory movements is usually tapped out somewhere in that four to six week range.
Okay, cool. Now we’re going to move on. Let’s switch. Let’s change the exercise variation. We give you a different stimulus because it needs to happen. And one of the things that I’m trying. I had a thought here, and it totally left me. And it came to me when you were talking and I can’t remember it for the life of me.
Using the Different Seasons to Choose Training Phases
Keiran Halton: Season strength, skill, the seasons of strength.
James Cerbie: I like the seasons of strength and the skill component. Those are the two things. Thank you. Seasons of strength. Actually, I sent out an email about that. Probably like six months ago where if you just think about planning your training over the course of a calendar or based off of when can you actually be outside? And when are you going to be trapped inside? Because it was the winter here in Salt Lake, and I couldn’t go outside to do anything because one, the air sucks and it’s just cold and everything’s covered in snow.
So it’s like, okay, well, if I’m gonna be trapped inside in the winter, and this is going to be a great time to mash weights. Right. And so you could just realistically sync your training to a calendar year. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Unless you’re competing in something really specific, like, fall is going to be hypertrophy work. Winter can be strength work. Spring can be this transition to more power. And then summer can be like, true speed and athletic stuff that’s people laughing like, that’s so simple.
It would work. I guarantee it will work. So if you’re thinking of a really simple, easy way to sequence training, then I would just rock that. And then the skill comment. So there’s a book called The Talent Code that’s quite good and worth reading, because when we think about skill, especially a physical skill, it’s primarily a neurological mechanism. It is the brain and central nervous system having to coordinate muscular contraction. And the key element there when we think about skill, myelin is something that comes into play here big time.
Developing Skill by Understanding Myelin
So myelin is what wraps your neurons. Right. This myelin sheath. And so what the myelin does is it drastically impacts the speed at which signals can be sent and transmitted. And so one way to think about skill or one way that skill will be expressed as the person that has the most militated neuron pathway will have greater skill at this one particular physical task, et cetera. Because the way the myelin essentially works and easy analogy is if you think you have a neuron, so we have starting point A and you’re sending a signal down this neuron to point B.
Well, if you don’t have any myelin, then you have to depolarize all the way down the neuron to get there. To be similar to saying, I’m going to line up 100 people, and we’re going to see how long it takes to take from person one to person 100. Every single person in the line has to clap. But you can only clap when the person directly in front of you claps. So person one claps, then person two can clap in person three, then four, and you do that all the way down the line until you get to 100.
But what myelin does is it allows you to jump the line because it allows the depolarization to essentially have one point mile in sheet and it skips over that. And then it goes to depolarize the next section. So in our
person clapping line example, if we had myelin on board, that means person one can clap and then person 25 claps when they hear person one clap, and then person 50 claps when they hear person 25 clap, and he’s got to think about, okay, well, which example are we going to get the person 100 faster?
Inverting Your Set and Rep Scheme
It’s going to be way faster when I’m skipping 25 people. And so that’s what my line is doing. And the example I brought up when I talked about this recently was with inverting set and rep schemes because it needs to be high quality work for us to actually develop that skill and to layer on this myelin it needs the repetition and exposure. So as opposed to hitting like four to five sets of ten, maybe I hit ten sets of five and I drop my rest time a little bit, and every single rep is going to be super high quality, super high intent.
I’m not getting sloppy. I think that’s one of the reasons that a lot of our athletes are so successful and hit such big PR is because we take them and we flip what they’ve been doing. It’s like, hey, instead of hitting five sets of ten where you probably get five to six good reps and then your last four reps are probably for being honest, low intent, a little bit lazy and kind of trash. So as opposed to hitting 25 really high quality reps out of 50.
Now, when I do ten sets of five, you’re locked in. I’m getting 50 really high quality dialed in reps. I’m building that skill. I’m layering on more myelin as one simple example in this realm. But that’s one way that I like to think about that skill acquisition component, right? It’s like you need that repeated exposure. That’s why that main lift needs to stay the same for an extended period of time, and then we’ll change it. Change it every twelve to 16 weeks. If you safety bar squat, go to a hack squat, right?
Like if you barbell bench press, maybe switch the bar, go to a Cadillac bar, change your foot position, bring your feet up on the bench, put your feet on the ground. You have ways of manipulating and changing these things. And it’s just I feel like people try to make this way more complicated and harder than it needs to be. I don’t know.
Maybe I’m biased. I just don’t feel like what we do. Is that really that complex? It’s not that hard. It’s just people trying to make it really hard and confusing, right?
Keiran Halton: Forget about the muscle confusion. Now I’m confused.
James Cerbie: Man.
Ryan Patrick: Anything else on this topic do you feel like we could come up with the inverted set and rep scheme. I think you can end up cranking a lot more volume out of that. So if you’re listening instead of doing, you know, three sets of ten, it would be ten sets of three or something in that ballpark. I always think about the approximation to fatigue. Are there two reps in the tank? Is there one? Because the closer every set gets to your threshold, the less overall volume you’re going to be able to accumulate.
So just by inverting that set and rep scheme right away, you’ve got a huge buffer and you can just continue that and really develop the skill of that. Now I’ll use myself as an example. So the first time I squatted 500 lbs was nine months after I broke my tibia, and the only difference in that. So I had probably eight weeks where I couldn’t squat anything more than like a 16 kilo Bell. But I was swatting four times a week. It’s a pretty low threshold. I don’t think I touch more than 350 pounds.
The entire prep tested it a week before the power listing made just to see where I was at, hit 500 in the gym and was testing for Silverback that week. So I did a 30 minutes run on Sunday and then squatted the next Saturday, a competition and hit five. Whatever it is, I don’t even remember now. So that level of practice, that consistency for the average or the intermediate person is extremely valuable to get a ton of work in, even if it’s not at a high intensity.
And I’m saying, I don’t want to confuse low intensity with easy, because that’s not at all what I’m saying. And that’s what some people hear. It’s train soft, it’s just lower intensity. And, you know, kind of back to the myelin in the whole concept of building skill. You know, when I watch Beginner Squad, every rep looks different. There’s a lot of variability and outcome, but as you progress and as you get better, there’s less variability in the outcome. But there’s actually more variability in terms of these subtle shifts and how they’re using the muscle to get through that.
So you don’t get these overuse issues. And it’s just through practice and focus technique that you can really develop when you have a large volume of work at a lower intensity that allows you to get that. And so all the time, I think about this spectrum, especially with CrossFit, because when Cross it came out, I mean, there were a lot of people who didn’t want them to be right, like you can’t do all these things at once. And so for me, it was the spectrum of how much variability do I need on one end for the sake of obtaining new skills, for the sake of psychologically, enjoying training and not just doing the same thing?
And on the other end, how much repetition do I need to truly develop mastery? So I think when we talk about the differences in your main lift, being more being less variable and having more repetitive practice, whereas your accessory work is going to follow more on that variability into the spectrum where we’re giving you more options. We’re turning these things over every couple of weeks. It’s going to be the same, but different. Right? I’m going from a split squat to a reverse lunge to a forward lunge.
So, I mean, they’re in the same household, but there’s just enough variation that allows me to make progress. So those are just a couple of things that come up, but I just can’t. I can’t emphasize enough what I think a huge amount of submaximal work does for the average Lister.
James Cerbie: Yeah, as an example, protocol. If somebody just wants to go test this, just put of your one rep max on the bar, you’re going to do five reps every 60 to 90 seconds. Cap yourself at eight to ten sets. If you hit your cap, then you gotta take it for max reps. That is a protocol that works like gangbusters repeatedly. And then obviously that gets waived over the course of a training program. But just give that a try. Take 16 of your Max on a squat.
Enter deadlift. Make sure it’s in the same exact movement, though. Like, I have somebody and trained heroes because we have that six week PR challenge. Someone trained hero was like, hey, I got buried on my squat today. I used my one rep Max percentages and then did SSB. Now I was like, no, what are you doing? No, you’re gonna get absolutely buried. It can take your straight bar back squat numbers and then just throw them straight on a safety bar. You’re gonna get torched. So make sure that it’s within the same exact movement.
Take it question mark sets by five reps every 60 to 90 seconds. Cap it anywhere from eight to ten. If you hit your cap, just go for Max reps. If you don’t reach your cap, that’s fine. That autoregulation is going to be dependent upon you. As an athlete, your physiology is probably going to be largely dependent upon fiber type distribution.
If you’re going to be a little bit more shifted towards that slow side, you’re going to recover like a boss. If you’re going to be a little bit more shifted to that fast twitchy side. Like me, you’re going to tap out a little bit faster because you just get gassed, right?
Keiran Halton: I love the inverted steps. Those are way more fun, especially if you’re a little more oriented, like, you can just put a whole lot of effort and just keep going. You just feel like that’s fine.
James Cerbie: Did one of the things in that real quick. Sorry. As you go super-fast, I was going to say, like, something about that inverted set, an rep scheme structure. By the time you’re on, probably set four or five, you just feel like you are on absolute fire in a really good way. Neurologically. I don’t know exactly what it is, but the aggression and the intensity. Dude, it’s like a pit Bull that’s been locked up too long and you’re like, bro. Come on, let’s get to the next set.
Come on. You’re just so amp. Whereas just personally for me, if I start hitting 10, 12 rep sets on my big movements, right, we need to make the distinction here. This inverted certain rep scheme is not something you do in accessories. We’re talking about your big bilateral main output movement for the day. If I start pushing those, like, 10, 12 reps, I don’t have that same focus and intensity. I don’t get that just kind of like a fire feeling that I get when those things are inverted. People watch me train on an invert set while resting.
They probably think I’m a lunatic because by the time I hit set five, I’m just stomping around, just cranking my head to whatever I’m listening to, just motherfucking myself a little bit.
Keiran Halton: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’ve used that even. I mean, awesome for us. But then I always use that for clients and stuff who kind of come in in last minute. They have their adult, like, you know, soccer Lee got changed now they’re going to play in 2 hours or somebody’s going to play golf, like, later on today. And so instead of doing, like, the traditional what we were doing, like, three by ten, for instance. Right. Do the inverted and we’ll actually do that where we cut the volume in half a little bit.
Like, right when they get to that point of being super jazzed up and they’re feeling really good, and then we’ll cut them right there to your point. Right. Like, about to let the dog off the leash, but you just hold them back a little bit and everybody comes back and says, oh, I was totally I was ready to go at the game or, like, whatever it is that they’re doing. So that’s a really, really nice, nice protocol, even because you still kind of have the same wheelhouse for the total volume, but like, you’re just prime in them for the day.
Right. But then the one thing I was going to say to piggyback off of Ryan’s Point was like in terms of the variability and stuff, and, like, how much do I want to master this versus, like challenging the learning of something versus just having some fun with the accessories and stuff. But I really like how we at Rebel,
James. You had, like, the volume and the intensity. Like, obviously it’s kind of burning as you go along. But then if you just add one more line with, like, complexity or variability, depending on if you’re looking at your main or your accessory, right.
That could be a little higher earlier on, a little less later on, if you’re trying to peek or if you’re a little lower training agent, we’re trying to one build the basics, but then two expand your movement library. It can almost go the other way where it’s pretty low at first, and then now you’re spiking it towards the end of the training block, where now you’ve got a little more control over your body or the movement or whatever. Like that.
James Cerbie: So totally agree.
I think when the volume and intensity lines are just the most cooler, foundational piece of strength and conditioning, if you know nothing else, but you at least understand what volume and intensity should do over time you’re probably going to do okay. But the line that really needs to get thrown on there that takes things to the next level where we’re able to get this performance and actually feel good while we do. So you have to add this complexity or sensory motor or variability line on there as well.
The Importance of the Complexity and Variability Line
That’s the game changer when you understand how that line moves in coordination with volume and intensity. Now we’re in the position of crushing PRs. I’m feeling better than I ever had before because I think a lot of people are good at volume and intensity. A lot of people where they’re not as good as that complexity, sensory motor, variability line and how that should shift over training. That’s like the icing on the cake. That’s what takes things up to the next level for people in my experience, at least.
Ryan Patrick: Yeah. You know what conversations we have with a lot of people is okay, your main lift is not a time that I want you to think. it’s time to go. The queue is push. The queue is to shove your body into the bar. If you’re doing a squat, that’s it. Don’t worry about the stack. Don’t worry about, you know, all these little things. The time for that is later. We can do that on the unilateral. We’ll do tempo work, you know, that’s where you want to maybe sprinkle some of that stuff.
And even at the later phases of the training cycle, we’re not too worried about it. At that point. We should have done enough to establish that again, if we talk about skills like you don’t want a guy thinking too much, you know, when he’s teeing off about the execution of a swim, right? He just needs to get out there and smack it. But there’s opportunities where you’ve got to refine that skill. You’re gonna make changes. You’re gonna tweak the angle, the club head or whatever it is inside of training.
And that’s kind of how I approach it because we do a lot of our older guys golf, so they get that. But that’s just one of the ways I think about it.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I think that’s very true because. Like, in anything, there are going to be periods where you have to slow it down and be really cognitive and really focus on the minor tweaks and adjustments and technique. But when it comes time to go, if you’re still thinking, you’re going to be really slow and unathletic and not powerful, right? Talk to any really good athlete and they’re not thinking about anything. Their brain is off. It’s just a pure flow state. They’ve done their work elsewhere, so that when they show up on game day, which for us is going to be that main lift usually or when we run our in house competitions, that’s not the time to be thinking.
The thinking should have taken place elsewhere. This is the time the brain is shut off in flow state mode. We’re just going because if you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, okay, well, I need to do this. I need to do this, and then you’re running through this massive checklist of things. It’s not going to work out. Well, it’s going to be terrible.
Keiran Halton: Most people have enough on the plate during the day anyway. Sometimes it’s like people have to, like, come and like, just cut it off and, like, just go, yeah.
Choosing the Right Exercise Variation for You
James Cerbie: And to your point, Ryan, with the main lift, that’s where it’s so important just to choose the right exercise variation for that person. Don’t choose a variation that makes it really, really, really hard for them to be in a good position, because then they are going to have to spend all their time thinking. Or if they don’t spend all their time thinking, then they’re just going to be in pain. They’re going to hurt it. Just start the clock, right? That’s where any people need to be a little bit more flexible when you’re choosing the big main lift, literally stack the deck in the person’s favor pun intended because we’re trying to get a stack, right?
Maybe it’s an SSB squat. Maybe it’s a hack squat. Maybe it’s putting your feet up on the bench instead of having them down on the ground. Whatever it is, choose the variation that allows the person in front of you to more or less totally shut their brain off and just focus on pure output. Just fucking gas Tuttle down. Go. I can find it for anybody. Assuming I have enough access to equipment, because that’s not the place where we’re going to be working on. Yeah, I think we’ve hammered that.
I don’t need to beat that dead horse anymore. Nice guys. Anything else here in this talk our way around this pretty successfully. I’m hoping.
Ryan Patrick: I think it’d be good to just throw out a few of the potential barriers that people kind of screw up when they’re writing programs for themselves. Obviously, they can come to rebel and we’ll help them. But, you know, like when you’re setting us up, what things? What things do you see? A lot of people screw up.
James Cerbie: Keiran, do you want to take that one first?
Keiran Halton: Yeah. Probably not understanding the volume intensity and then throwing the complexity variation sensory motor on top of that. It’s just like they’re trying to fill all the attribute bars as quickly as they can, so not understanding the interplay of all three of those. It’s really hard to even select an exercise that you could do all those really well on. So probably trying to do too much too quickly and not having the dimmer switches on the buying the intensity and the complexity is probably the biggest one.
I see most of the time I’m having people, like, pull the ran back a little bit on something they’re trying to do too much too quickly just off the top of my head. That’s probably the biggest barrier in getting people to understand the interplay of those.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think the biggest barrier is just fitness workout ads. They change it all the time. When people try to do it themselves, they just end up overthinking everything, second guessing everything they do. They may have taken the time to sit down and write themselves a training program. And by the time they’re on week two and a half or three, they’re already changing things here. Like, I don’t like this. I’m gonna change this. I’m going to change this. I’m gonna change this or they can’t get clear enough on what I actually want to focus on?
They get three weeks in. I actually think I want to focus on this now, and it’s just it’s the family guy. Oh, piece of candy. That’s what we see all the time. That without question, when people try to do it all themselves, that is the number one thing we see. It’s just a piece of candy and then a piece of candy. So they’re always changing things. They’re always tweaking things and you can’t get better that way. You just can’t like that. The biggest, biggest mistake I see without question is just the fitness workout ad, always tweaking, always changing, always overthinking it.
If you’re going to take the time to write a plan for yourself, you’ve got to force yourself and be disciplined. I’m going to do it as written. I’m not going to get in three weeks in and just change everything. But that’s where people have a really hard time, because when they write it themselves, they get to week three and they start having questions. They start doubting what they wrote originally. And that’s where having that resource as a coach to be like, no, we’re good. Just do it.
Stay on track. That’s the one I see without question the most often.
Ryan Patrick: Yeah, I think for me, you know, if we tie in some of these other domains, so you want to get now, we talked a lot about strength and how to approach that. But if you’re talking about adding in the speed elements and you’re adding in the conditioning and other stuff, I think the important take home for me. And this is very much for myself because I’m a shit client for me, but you can have it all. But you can’t do it all. And I think that’s what you were getting at James.
And so it kind of goes back to just being intentional about where you’re allocating your time of training. I think in general, you know, if you’ve got 60 to 75 minutes, you should be able to get done what you need to get done very rarely do we. I try to make workouts go much longer than that. So if you find that you’re just putting endless exercises in there, you’re trying to do too much in a day. The time that you’ve allocated just doesn’t make sense and you need to start pruning.
And sometimes, you know, the good program is as much about what you do not include as what you actually have in there. And that comes with practice and just sticking to what you’re writing and seeing what the outcome is and then ultimately just refining that over time.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I would very much agree with that. Most people are their own worst clients, especially coaches. Because you think about what you ended up doing. I would never allow a client to do this, but I can do it because I’m different. Yeah.
Keiran Halton: Exactly.
Ryan Patrick: No warm up sprints deadlifts?
James Cerbie: It’s funny you bring that up because that somebody emailed me recently. They bought the hybrid in the program shop like, hey, I really want to add sprints to this.
And I was like. Man, to be honest, I’m not going to give you recommendations for that because I can’t just throw in sprinting and not have an enormous ripple effect. Then the program is written in a particular way. And if you want to really sprint, that’s going to change a lot. It’s not as simple as kind of just sub it in here for this. It’s not really no, right. That’s a perfect example of it. Well, I also want sprint. I’m just going to throw that into an appreciation for how all these different pieces are coming together.
Most people try to do way too much like you mentioned. They want it all. But then they make the mistake of trying to do it all at the same exact time, and it just doesn’t work anyway.
Keiran Halton: If you could do it all and get away with that for a while, you probably don’t have a good enough training age, or you’re not as strong or advanced as you say you are, because that would crush most, even intermediate. Right.
James Cerbie: Like, yeah, for sure, because I think one of the hard parts is. And I’ve realized this over time, it’s really hard for me to push my dead lift and have any semblance of actual sprint development as well.
Keiran Halton: Yeah.
James Cerbie: I just found those two are almost impossible to have. I can’t chase both of those at the same time. I just run into way too many issues. I’m being aggressive with my deadlift, and I can even separate them by a few days in a training week. It’s just if I’m being aggressive on my deadlift, and then I’m being aggressive on higher speed work like real sprints. The sprint has turned into a disaster. I’m pulling hamstrings. I feel like poop. That’s a relationship that I found to be very difficult to juggle.
It’s pretty much turned into. If I really want to prioritize sprints and deadlift. I need to go on maintenance mode, or they have to come out almost entirely for a short period of time. I don’t know if you guys have found something similar, but that’s a realization I’ve not wanted to have to come to. I love both of them so much. But that’s one this past year that I’ve really had to just swallow and accept.
Ryan Patrick: I recover from trap bar really well, not straight bar. So if I’m doing a lot of sprinting, it’ll be. We’ve got the Titan bar. So it’s about two inches taller than your standard trap bar all day. With that. No issues. As soon as I get a straight bar. Total trash.
James Cerbie: That’s a good distinction.
Yeah, I would say from recent testing, I would agree with that statement. The trap bar is a much safer option if I’m going to be aggressive with sprints.
Keiran Halton: Yeah, I switched out all the heavy deadlifting over the summer while I was really focusing on sprinting. And to your point, this is the first summer in a few years where I felt I could really push the volume and I was just so much more ready to actually sprint. Like my low back would just, like, be non existent after the first, like two weeks of trying to sprint and dead list. It’s just like, too much of the same, like just like compression on the backside. It would just crush me.
James Cerbie: Beautiful, beautiful guys. Well we’re coming up on an hour, so let’s wrap this bad boy up. Move on with our Fridays. I actually need to go left. So any closing remarks or thoughts for the people do.
Ryan Patrick: Let’s do it better.
Keiran Halton: Oh, I like that one. That’s a good one. Be patient right? Even if you’re not doing it this block, you’ll probably do it next block.
James Cerbie: Yeah, mine would be to force yourself to prioritize and then don’t change your mind every two weeks.
No, just you got to say. You gotta do it right.
Keiran Halton: Otherwise, muscles are confused and you’re confused.
James Cerbie: Like we should make it. My muscles are so confused and just have a big flexing bicep with a giant questioning a title. I don’t know, or I don’t know what to do with my hands from how they can.
Keiran Halton: Yes.
James Cerbie: And just have that somehow related to a muscle. Do I know what to do with my hands? I must be getting better. All right, folks, have a fantastic week. If you have questions about any of what we talked about because we get a lot in this. Feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com or you can DM us on Instagram. We’re pretty active on there. So have a fantastic week and we will be back soon. I think the episode after this one, I’m going to record one next week with Ryan L’Ecuyer and we’re going to do the Rise of the Machines episode and just really dive in and talk more about it because I feel like machines.
In the beginning. Machines are super popular. Everybody loves machines. And then there is this air quit functional training movement and everyone’s like machines are dumb. Don’t ever do machines and now they’re on the rise again. Thankfully. So we’re going to do a rise of the machines and really talk about machines when to utilize them, how to utilize them. Stuff like that. I think that’ll be good. So that’s coming up as well. Thanks.
Keiran Halton: Awesome.
James Cerbie: Otherwise have a great week, everybody. Peace.
Keiran Halton: Thanks guys. Bye.
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