Ask the Coach” is the column in which Wolfgang Unsöld answers your questions. The book of the same name was published by Riva Verlag and Available right here on Amazon.
Question: Dear Mr. Unsöld, I bought your “Arm Weekend” training program. Really great program. It has really enriched my training. Now, I have a question about this: you do no more than 6 reps on most exercises for the first three of the four workouts in a day. Except for exercises like tricep stretches with dumbbells or EZ bars. I've noticed that with other training plans like your arm vacation . Is there a specific reason for this, such as the fiber distribution in the triceps, or does the number of repetitions simply fit the exercise tricep extensions better? Thanks so much! Kind regards, Marc R
WU: Very well observed. Yes, since elbow flexor training is primarily built around isolation movements like curls, I use a lower average rep on average. The main reason is the high safety aspect and the traction on the joints in this exercise group. This makes it possible to complete a high training volume in the low and moderate rep range in order to recruit and fatigue the largest possible pool of fast-twitch fibers without taking major risks of injury and overtraining. Of course, it should be noted that we do not primarily work exclusively in the area of less than 6 repetitions, but also train the elbow flexors and extensors with up to 25 repetitions, as you can see in the fourth of the four units of a day of the Arm Weekend. This is how we maximize fast-twitch fiber recruitment and training progress. For bigger and stronger arms.
The primary focus on isolation exercises for elbow flexor training is of course supported by compound exercises that involve the elbow flexors. The pull-up exercise group is primarily responsible for this. The thing to note here, however, is that increasing the power of a compound exercise for the elbow flexors like pull-ups does not directly increase elbow flexor power. In simple terms, it's possible to use 100 pounds of extra weight on pull-ups but be relatively weak on curls.
In comparison, we train the anatomically less complex elbow extensors primarily with compound exercises and supplement them with isolation exercises. Compound exercises for the elbow extensors are primarily any form of horizontal or vertical extension, such as dips, bench presses, and overhead presses. These are critical for the elbow extensors, since increasing power on compound exercises for the elbow extensors automatically strengthens the elbow extensors. In simple terms, if you use 160kg on LH flat bench presses with a shoulder-width grip, you will be able to use heavy weights directly on KH triceps extensions without ever having trained the exercise directly.
Thus, the primary focus for recruiting the fast-twitch fibers of elbow extensor training is on compound exercises such as the LH flat bench press with a shoulder-width grip, because of the nature of compound exercises, these recruit and fatigue more fast-twitch fibers. And these also offer significantly more security for the elbows in the lower repetition range. Isolation exercises for the elbow extensors such as KH or LH tricep stretches can be trained regularly by a few people with a repetition range of less than 6 repetitions without the elbows hurting. However, the rep range of under 6 reps is necessary to make rapid and consistent gains in strength and hypertrophy.
So for training the elbow extensors in this rep range, I primarily choose compound exercises and supplement them with isolation exercises in the higher rep range. To avoid pain and the associated breaks in training.
And of course for more and more constant progression in strength and hypertrophy of the elbow flexors and extensors.
Good luck with the Arm Weekend!
The Arm Weekend is part of the "Training Weekends" ebook, more info here
The release of the German translation of the “Training Weekends” ebook will follow in early April.
Image: Dennis Unic at the Arm Weekend at the YPSI.