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)

Chasing the “Pump” – Quick Comment #1

Today, as any other workout, we entered the gym and started performing our workout. Within 10 minutes a reasonably sized guy walked over to us to try and teach us something about lifting.  After first informing us that he had been watching us train for 6 weeks (which is a little creepy if we’re honest), he let us know that we hadn’t got any stronger. Obviously a “natural lifter” he then proceeded to give us a short lecture on what we should be doing in the gym.

His lecture basically followed these main points:

  1. There is no point having a long rest when using a heavy weight.
  2. Military Press should never be performed without a belt.
  3. You should always be chasing the “Pump”.
  4. In order to get stronger you should lift lighter weight for more reps.

These were his opinions. These are our facts.

  1. Unless somebody is taking steroids or incredibly new to lifting, you should be having long rest periods (3-5 minutes) when lifting a heavy weight so that your body has time to recover from the last set. There is no point taking a 60 second rest and failing the set.
  2. A belt may be advisable (depending on form and back strength) when using very heavy weight (90kg+) otherwise it is perfectly fine without. Again, just watch your form.
  3. The “Pump” will do very little to add mass to your frame. When trying to get strong, this is a silly thing to aim for.
  4. This goes against every scientific journal ever written. Just plain wrong. This will help you get better at lifting a weight 8-12 times, but won’t increase your overall strength.
  5. If a somebody comes up to you and tells you this. Direct them to this website.

If you want your question to feature in the next “Quick Comment” just send your questions to or leave a comment below.

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