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Over the past couple of months I have been utilizing "singles" training
in my workouts. While a couple of months does not make me an authority
on singles training, it has garnered some insight into the style of training,
and has also provided me with a comparative base to examine results of
past programs as opposed to this new style. I will offer some of these
insights, as well as some other suppositions in this article.
Singles training is training a lift for a series of sets of 1
"rep" lifts. These lifts are NOT 1 rep maxes (as in "how much can you single"),
but rather any weight done as a single rep. These "singles" should only
be used on the powerlifts, or something similar in nature. I see no sense
in doing singles on small muscle groups (bicpes, hamstrings, etc.), but
I suppose someone is doing them somewhere. By nature of only doing one
rep per set, it only makes sense that the weight should be relatively heavy,
but not "all out", especially when just beginning. The number of sets,
or singles, to utilize in a workout is variable I suppose, but I have been
using 10 "singles" per workout with approx. 30 seconds rest between each
set. I started all weights at approx. 85% of what my 1 rep max is for the
particular lift. I add 10 lbs. per workout to my squat and deadlift, and
5 lbs. per workout to my bench press. This has given me a slow but sure
progression in intensity over the weeks. Below is what my current routine
I go two days a week, typically Sat. and Wed.
Wed. looks like this:
Squats or Sumo Deadlifts (alternated weekly) done
for 10 singles, 30
seconds rest between each rep.
If I deadlift, I will also powerclean with about 50-60% of what
deadlifted for 3 sets of 4 reps.
If I squatted, I will do 1/4 squats for singles, working up to
or so lbs. more than my squat weight and do 1 set of 12 on stiff
Chins for 20 reps, as many sets as needed. These are full stretch
pause at the bottom chins, no bouncy-bouncy stuff.
Sat looks like this:
Bench press: 10 singles, 30 seconds rest, full 2 second pause
I have chains on the bar, as in Louie Simmons, that add about 30 lbs
the bar at full lockout. So the bar gets heavier the farther it goes
Push press: 3 sets of 3
Curls: 3 sets of 8
I do grip stuff at work, and farmers walk from time to
time, but not
I do every powerlift in "contest" style. Full depths, proper form, 2
second pause on the bench press, full lock-out on the deadlift, etc. I
use no wraps, suits, or special shoes on any of these lifts. I use a light
belt on my squats (more psychological than anything) and overhead presses,
but have recently dropped the belt on deadlifts. I use straps on stiff
deadlifts and chins to allow me to focus on form rather than gripping.
Of course I use no straps on sumo deadlifts.
Again, I try to rest only about 30 seconds between sets, but I
don't rush to get under the bar in less than 30 either. Likely it is more
like a total of 40-50 seconds between lifts on squat and bench press. The
deadlift requires minimal set up, so it goes a little quicker. As the weights
get higher and harder, I will adjust rest times to 45 seconds and even
a minute. Eventually dropping sets, too, if needed although I don't forsee
this happening for quite some time.
Beneifts of singles training:
1. Builds pure unaduterated strength. It is primarily a raw strength
builder. It probably does minimal work for "mass", although I am sure over
time it will increase muscle size, just at a slower rate than multiple
rep training. I did see an increase in arm size when I got into it, bit
it was likely a triceps increase as I am a triceps presser. I also have
begun working curls a little heavier, so that may account for it as well.
2. Works on form. One of my biggest gripes about high rep training
was form loss at the end of sets. As the supporting musculature tires after
multiple reps, form can loosen up which either shifts stress to compensating
muscles or sets up a potentially injurious situation. Now I am not saying
that multi-rep (traditional) training is injurious by any means, only that
single rep training almost guarantees a focus on perfect form, as long
as you do not overload yourself. You are able to do each repetition fresh
and concentrated on proper form and depth. Again, I treat each one as if
I were being judged on it at a power meet. I am also able to begin setting
up my bench a little better to equalize the stress across pecs, delts,
and triceps, rather than triceps pressing like I have always done.
3. Decreases recovery time. Since I am only doing 1 rep at a
time, my squats are leg and hip lifts, not lower back lifts. My squat workout
does not punish my lower back the way it used to when my form would ease
up in mid set. My back is fresh in a few days, rather than the week it
used to take.
4. Allows for greater intensity per workout. Doing only 1 rep
allows you to put more weight on the bar when lifting. Since you only have
to make 1 rep, you can really pile the weights on after time. This provides
a whole new stimulus for the body, as well as developing confidence for
lifting big weights. Many lifters can knock themselves out on heavy 15
and 20 rep sets, but are leery of loading the bar up to 2 and 3 repetition
range. This eliminates that factor, as you are pushing or pulling big weight
every workout and multiple times.
5. Provides an honest to goodness opening lift for a contest.
Any lift you can do 10 times with great form in the garage, certainly you
can do once in a contest, even if you are nervous about it.
Lifting frequency should by nature be limited in this type of routine.
I lift only twice a week, and alternate my squats and deadlifts. I work
my bench, chins and overhead press weekly.
Brooks Kubik advocates a slow "work-in" time to single rep training,
particularly on the 5 rep routines he likes. This system (in my opinion)
takes minimal "work-in" time for someone who is used to working out in
the (honest) 6-8 rep range already. This type of training might also be
a great "work-in" for Kubiks low set single work as well. If you are currently
training higher repetition work, and want to try singles, I would suggest
spending a 8-10 workouts per lift in trraining down to 4-8 reps before
getting into singles.
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