Both methods of loading have their place.
How do you get them right?
How do you get them wrong?
Ramp loading is best used for INTENSIFICATION loading. Intensification micro-cycle are great to help fire more motor units and co-ordinate heavy loads. Using higher reps relative to the last micro-cycle makes it ACCUMULATION even if you're using Ramp loading.
Making it work:
1. Take small jumps.
The smaller the jumps the more it becomes like an accumulation block. It's not just about that top set. It's about all the sets that get you there and normalise.
2. Get out early.
If your tendency is to go until you miss a lift or things get ugly, don't do that. If your tendency is to burn yourself out with training, don't do that. Stay fresh, get wins, keep going.
3. Not every day is your best day.
In high-jump or shot-put you wouldn't expect bigger numbers every single session. Sometimes it's more about practice. There are more way to win than top weight. Not every day will be your best day. Keep showing up.
4. Take short reps on your warm-up sets.
Load and lift for your first sets then keep your rest periods to a set time for the top sets. On the 90 second if you're pairing movements or on 120 seconds if you're not alternating between 2 movements is a good place to start. If you're going to hit a lifetime best you can take a bit more rest. Otherwise stay efficient, get work done. Keep moving.
Advantages of ramp loading.
1. You get to see where you're at day to day.
2. You do your best for the day and you're done. No need to get wrapped up in percentages.
3. Neural potentiation from set to set as you mentally grease the grove of the movement means you can get to a higher weight for the day than if you went straight to top weight. By opening more potential and then moving into that potential you can increase strength gains.
Disadvantages of ramp loading.
1. It has more moving parts because you're adding weight set to set. This creates a little more chaos.
2. You have to be smart. Knowing when to go and when to stop is an art. Getting it right will keep you on the path to success and enjoying the journey. Get it wrong and you'll either get bored or burnt out.
3. Saying that again, it's easier to get burnt out or injured!
Is essentially a version of RAMP LOADING where you get to the top then go back and increase again. Often higher reps are used for the lower intensity sets. eg. 5-3-1,5-3-1,5-3-1. where all of these numbers are stand alone sets. You only keep going when you can keep working with more weight. The first cycle should be moderate, second challenging and third one around your limit.
Waves with the same weight can also be great. 5-3-2 method and 10-5-3-2 are methods popularised by Dan John to get Poliquin like volume done. Basically you keep the same load on the bar and you keep going at the weight 10-micro rest-5 micro rest- 3 micro rest - 2 micro rest.
Flat loading is great for ACCUMULATION micro-cycles. You get work done. You know exactly what you did. You move forward to the next day.
Dense Strength works best with flat loading because the rests are short and there is no need to adjust load between sets. Starting loads for Dense Strength are:
5D10 - 40%,
5D5 - 60%,
5D3 - 70%,
5D1 - 80%.
Making it work:
1. Choose your starting loading wisely.
You want to leave room to grow. Start with a comfortable weight and increase by 1-2% per session.
2. Increase session to session.
4-10 sessions is usually a good range to aim for before shifting / resetting the parameters.
3. Focus on quality
It's easy to be less focussed or event complacent when the loads are sub-maximal. Focus your attention to create deeper neural grooves and get stronger faster. Build the mind muscle connection during each set. Relax in between.
4. Use last set AMRAPS if the training stimulus is too low for the day. Be aware that you can work hard on assistance movements instead of the AMRAP on the last set.
1. Very simple. You get it or you don't.
2. No messing with loads, works better for groups and training in a commercial gym environment with distractions.
3. It helps to build patience. Build the platform for the next session.
4. You get a lot of challenging but manageable practice. Building the co-ordination and mind muscle connection.
5. Accumulation of quality volume is great for building muscle size.
1. You don't get to take advantage of your best days by ramping to a heavy load.
2. Some people struggle with motivation without a top weight.
3. Lower intensity makes it not as good for strength gains or peaking strength.
Some people will naturally gravitate to intensity. Chasing volume numbers can help to shift the focus and open up new gains for some people. For those who just love to feel good and get work done flat loading will be more appealing but ramp loading with attention to detail across a small spread (the range that you count your work sets in can also help to practice quality against increasing intensity.
Let's keep it simple.
Let's get better at both.
Let's lead the world stronger.