Black Sheep utilises three types of sets. While they all achieve progressive overload for strength and muscle, they each have a specific utility.
If you are an online client, you'll see these being listed in your programme going forward to make things clearer.
These are what are often referred to as 'sets across'. Any loading that involves staying at the same weight and reps, but adding sets, are builder sets.
Builders are my go-to for when progress is slow, and they should make up the bulk of a more advanced lifter's training. They allow us to accumulate more work, while staying away from failure.
Example: 60kg 5x5
Or, sometimes I will give you a range of sets to accumulate, depending on how capable you feel.
Example: 60kg 3-6 x 5
(meaning 3-6 sets of 5 reps, all at that weight)
These are sets where the weight stays the same, but we attempt to add more reps than the previous set. We continue doing this until we hit the max number of reps within our range, permitting us to add weight.
These are particularly useful for when you're not sure if you're training close enough to failure, or if you are ready to add weight.
'5-10 range, starting at 60kg'
Set 1: 60kg x5
Set 2: 60kg x6
Set 3: 60kg x8
Set 4: 60kg x10
These are the fun sets that we wish could be every day. A peaker set is when you progress by adding weight. The number of reps will be fixed, and you will instead be given a range of weight to add, depending on the exercise, your training experience, etc.
Example: 'Peaker sets on deadlift. Starting at 60kg, build to a set of 5 reps with 2 RIR, using 2.5-10kg weight jumps.'
Set 1: 60kg x5 (5+ RIR)
Set 2: 70kg x5 (4 RIR)
Set 3: 75kg (3 RIR)
Set 4: 77.5kg x5 (3 RIR)
Set 5: 80kg x 5 (2 RIR)
These are an odd set type in that they have a lot of versatility.
If you are a newbie, or coming back from sickness, time off, using a new piece of equipment, etc. then I will typically have you do these to establish a challenging weight on each exercise.
If you've been doing a lot of base building work with builders or climbers, I may also prescribe peakers in order to test how much strength we've gained and reset our working weight.
I will also use peaker sets any time we are testing a rep max on an exercise.
Technically you will also perform a peaker set anytime your climber set gets you to the max reps in your range, as you will need to add 2.5kg.
The earlier you are in your lifting career, the more of these peaker sets you can do. As you get stronger, adding weight becomes harder and harder, so the bulk of training should be builders and climbers.
What Makes it All Work: Reps In Reserve
The above all becomes a shitshow if you are taking sets to failure. This is where 'Reps In Reserve' (RIR) comes in. This is your subjective assessment of how many reps you have left before failing. If you think you could do 2 more reps, then you have 2 RIR. If you think you had 1 left, it's 1 RIR. Simple stuff.
The majority of sets done on this programme should be with 2-3 RIR. The reason why is this provides enough stimulus for growth, without creating so much fatigue that your ability to progress next time is hindered. The prescribed cut-off point for performing another set is typically going to be when you are at approximately 1-3 RIR. Time has proven that this is the sweet spot of enough to stimulus for growth, without impacting recovery for the next session.
You may occasionally push to 1 RIR, but I really recommend avoiding making a habit of that. If you're a client, I will specify if I want you to push to 1 RIR. Going to absolute failure is mainly reserved for an assistance exercise like curls, leg curls, sit-ups, etc. Things that won't mess up the rest of your training.