“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs


Former beauty queen and current jujitsu beast, Whitney Miller, following an ARX-heavy, Efficient Exercise throwdown.  Read her take on the action, here.

A few weeks ago, in “Autoregulating the Max Effort Day”, I discussed using a “density maximum” on a max effort upper body day.  Now, let’s compare that workout to my most recent max effort upper day.  Again, utilizing the dip as the chosen movement pattern.  This time, however, the tools and modalities will be a bit different.

Some context before we dive in.  I’ve stated before that I rarely perform a 1RM using traditional barbell movements.  Not that I don’t see the value in 1RM work; far from it.  But for me (relative to my personal goals, training needs and training age), the return-on-investment and benefit-to-injury-risk is just not there.  That said, I limit my low-rep max effort days to doubles and triples on the traditional movements, saving the heavy, single grinders for the much safer ARX movement alternative.

So, let’s look at my latest max effort upper workout (utilizing the same movement pattern — the dip, in this instance), then we’ll compare and contrast the two sessions.

Here’s how the session went down:

Dips: BW x 15, 45 x 7, 90 x 3, then:
A1) ARX H press (very similar to a dip or decline press) x 1
Note: each rep here takes approx 14 secs of all-out effort (6,1,6,1 tempo)
A2) Standard, weighted dips: 90 x 3
4 rounds, with approximately 2 minutes rest between rounds

Then I followed that up with 25 rest-pause dips at the same 90 lbs.  Add to that, 3 sets of 15 banded pull aparts, and I was pretty well smoked.  As I write this (the following day), my chest and tris are really feeling the torch.

Ok, so let’s dissect this a bit.  First up, let’s look at how I Autoregulated this shindig.

The emphasis here is on the ARX H (horizontal) press.  With the time-under-load/speed being constant (at approximately 14 seconds), I’m looking to maximize 3 different variables (which, by the way, are all easily tracked via the ARX software):

Instantaneous maximum
Max total output (total work)
Max intensity (power output)

Once I undershoot, within a particular rep, the day’s PR in all 3 parameters, I pull the plug.  In other words, if I hit or match a days PR in any those 3 parameters, I keep right on rolling into the next round.

I won’t bore you with the exact numbers I hit on each set, but in a relative sense, things fell out this way:

round 1: I hit my instantaneous max of the day (as seen in retrospect) on the eccentric of this rep. Decent output and intensity effort.

round 2: I hit my day’s max intensity (power) and a better-than-the-first-rep, output (work) here. Instantaneous max was just a bit lower than the first effort.

round 3: I hit my day’s highest output on this try.  Mostly due (I think, looking at the slope of the rep graph), to an unintended one-second extension in TUL.  Intensity and instantaneous max took a hit.  Starting to lose significant steam.

round 4: All 3 parameters dropped below the day’s best.  Pulled the plug.

So we clearly see the Autoregulation involved here.  I didn’t even look at how this effort compared to similar past efforts until after the workout was completed.  And what did I find?  Good work overall, but no circa max in any area.  A solid, craftsman-like, “punch the clock” outing.  I’ll take it.

Now, if I were really pressed for time, I could have hit the showers here, with a substantial high-intensity stimulus in the bag.  However, I did have some available time and took advantage of the situation by getting in some additional “swole factor” (volume).  I also had the recovery headroom to allow for it.  And that’s a critical point.

Note: this can be autoregulated as well.  I’ll get into this in a bit, but the weight selected was such that I should have been able — albeit with substantial effort — to slug through 25 reps in 8-ish minutes.  But if I face-plant at 20, so be it.  If it takes 15 minutes to complete the 25 (but the reps are still snappy), I’ll take that, too.  The goal, though, is 25 reps in 8-ish minutes.  A tall order with what has already gone down.  But fuck it, I like a challenge.

So… I strapped on the belt and hit 25 rest-pause dips using the same 90 lbs that I used as a 3-rep interlude between the ARX H press singles. After a serious 10-minutes-long slugfest, I’d finally made it through (with no grinders); the last 7 or so being doubles and singles.

Now, if you’re doing the math, that was 37 total reps at 90 lbs; none of them “grinders”.  And to keep the shoulders/rear delts/upper back happy, I finished the session with 3 sets of 15 reps in the banded pull aparts.

And now, the obvious question: why was 90 lbs chosen for the dips?  Well, the simple, though admittedly unscientific (but empirically very significant) answer is that it’s 90% of my bodyweight-adjusted, 3 rep dip max.

What the…. huh? Stay with me for a minute:

Bodyweight (220) + 3 rep dip max (125) = 345.
90% of 345 = 310.5 – 220 (my bodyweight) = 90.5 of additional weight. Call me a wuss, but I rounded low.

And by the way, I “bodyweight adjust” with weighted chins as well.

Now, here’s what I know from a lifetime spent around the iron: 25 reps at 90% of a 3 rep max is a damn good sweet spot for hitting a 25 rep rest-pause sequence, following a short run-up to a max effort attempt in a similar movement pattern. The same holds for squats, deadlifts…. whatever.

As an exercise in compare and contrast, let’s consider what I did here, on a max effort, “density emphasis” day utilizing the dip movement:

Dips: 115 (determined from a previous 6 RM) x 25 rest-pause – 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2 (total time, 5:45). Then, for some additional volume (and after a 1 minute rest), 95 lbs x 8 (going to failure).

Do the math on the volume between the two days, and you’ll see how close it is.  The real difference between the two workouts is that I traded dip intensity in the first workout for ARX intensity in this workout.

Ok, so let’s back up to the weight selection for a moment vis-a-vis, autoregulation: I didn’t gun for an actual 3-rep-max in this work out (I subbed that for ARX singles), I simply used my current 3 rep dip max (with some bodyweight adjust mojo) to settle on the 90 lb number.  Is that Autoreg perfection?  No.  Might I have actually been able to pull off a heavier 3 rep max today to base that number off of?  Hell yes.  But I could have also missed the mark, and had to use a lower rest-pause weight.  Fooook!  A brother could lose his friggin’ mind with this shiz, Holmes!

Exactly.  That’s why you need to keep this stuff as simple as possible, get your ass under the bar (or the weight around your waist, in this case), and do the work.  Limit the machinations!  The name of the game is getting the load (and bar speed — subject of an upcoming blog post) as close as possible, without agonizing, or wasting precious time.  At the end of the day, it’s the work and intensity that matters most, not that you got the loads exactly dialed in.

So, an effective and pinpointed throwdown here.  The damn tasty post workout meal was courtesy of Fixed Foods, with the sorely needed, Friday afternoon, post workout Magic Hat provided by our most awesome parking lot neighbor, Stinson’s.

In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –



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