Singles Training For Strength and Powerlifting by Trigg
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 looks like:
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 I
deadlifted for 3 sets of 4 reps.
If I squatted, I will do 1/4 squats for singles, working up to about 100
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 at chest.
I have chains on the bar, as in Louie Simmons, that add about 30 lbs to
the bar at full lockout. So the bar gets heavier the farther it goes up.
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.