The benefits of singles training

Whether you’ve been lifting for a year or just looking to get started with strength training, you will have almost undoubtedly come across a 5 x 5 strength program. Mark Rippetoe of Starting Strength was one of the major pioneers in helping to shift powerlifting over to the mainstream. His books have inspired thousands of lifters, along with many imitators who have tried to piggyback off of his success and preach the virtues of 5 x 5 like its gospel: it isn’t.

Personally, one of the most effective methods I’ve used to break plateaus and mix up my routines is the singles method. It is probably one of the most simple to use programming styles out there and basically goes like this:

  • Work out your 1RM (1 rep max)
  • Choose a weight that is around 90% of that 1RM. This can be around 95% if you have been lifting a while.
  • Warm up by performing reps with a lighter weight.
  • Perform anything between 3 and 10 sets of singles (i.e. one rep)
  • Choose a secondary exercise to that supplements your chosen lift, such as the floor press for the bench press.
  • Stretch
  • Leave the gym

This is best used for the main lifts: bench press, deadlift, overhead press and squat. Just be aware that if size is what you’re after, then this isn’t for you. It is purely for strength and training your central nervous system to deal with heavy loads and as such is very taxing on your body. Therefore, perform no more than 2 weeks of singles training in any given month; it might be useful to spend the remaining weeks incorporating some high repetition or bodybuilding style of work to keep your overall fitness levels high.

Using this method I’ve managed to bring my deadlift up to 198kg and bench to 140kg at 83/84kg. Let us know what this does for you and we may feature you in our next article!

photo credit: USS Bataan (LHD 5)_140420-M-HZ646-008 via photopin (license)