I’ve probably run a few of these types of articles over the years, but chances are folks don’t dig through the archives as much as they should. So with this in mind, I offer up 16 useful tips to keep your training safe, efficient, and effective.

  1. Perceived effort is a good measure of intensity. Rather than focusing on protocols that use different percentages of 1 RM, focus on perceived effort. Using different percentages of 1 RM is not a good way to prescribe exercise programs. This is because across individuals, and different muscle groups, and different exercises, the same percentage of a 1 RM can yield a different number of repetitions. Such differences can exist within an individual. This means that for some people and for any exercise an individual performs, the prescription can be too hard or too easy, rendering it ineffective.
  2. Different repetitions and resistance can yield the same degree of effort when the maximum repetitions are performed in a set. This means that a wide range of repetitions for a set can be equally effective. For example, a very high degree of effort and intensity can be reached in a set where you perform six repetitions in good form with a heavy resistance and ‘fail’ on an attempt at a seventh repetition or where you perform 12 repetitions with a more moderate weight and ‘fail’ on an attempt at a 13th repetition. In either case, the maximum recruitment of muscle fiber motor units would have occurred. You can choose to train with any number of repetitions with an effective set taking between about 30 seconds and 90 seconds.
  3.  There is no evidence that there is a separate way to train for strength or endurance. As you become stronger, you will increase your absolute muscular endurance. For example, if through training, you increase your strength in a movement from 60 lbs to 85 lbs, you may increase the number of repetitions you can perform with 40 lbs from 12 to 20. No special training is required to increase endurance. For each person and for each exercise and muscle group, relative muscular endurance is stable and appears genetically based. For example, a beginner’s 1 RM on an exercise may be 100 lbs and the trainee can perform 8 repetitions with 80 lbs (80%). Two years later, the trainee can do a 1 RM with 200 lbs and perform 8 repetitions with 160 lbs (80%). Relative endurance using a percent of 1 RM hasn’t changed and evidence indicates that it will not change. Protocols assuming that the relationship can be changed are not based on scientific research.
  4. Based on raising a resistance in about 3 seconds and lowering the resistance in 3 seconds, performing several to 15 repetitions can be effectively used. If longer duration repetitions are performed such as using a 5- 5 or 10-10 (10 or 20 seconds for 1 repetition) then fewer repetitions can be used.
  5. Increasing bone mineral density may depend upon using somewhat lower repetitions such as 6-8 and therefore training with somewhat greater resistance. A variety of exercises can be used because the effect of resistance training on bone mineral density is site specific.
  6. To increase strength, training has to produce an overload beyond a minimal threshold. Maximum effort produces maximum intensity and the greatest stimulus but the maximum stimulus may not produce any greater adaptation than a somewhat sub-maximal effort if there is some marginal overload. This means you should focus on progression while using great form and not an absolute maximum effort where form may be compromised.
  7. Train through as complete a range of motion that is comfortable for you.
  8.  Assuming all the other variables are kept constant, the intensity of training can be increased by increasing the weight, number of repetitions, and by reducing momentum through increasing the repetition’s duration. Muscular tension for an exercise may be maintained and intensity increased by not ‘locking-out’ on multiple joint exercises such as squats and bench press.
  9. There is no evidence that any one exercise is better than any other exercise for a specific muscle group. There is no evidence that performing an exercise a specific way such as on a stability ball produces better outcomes for strength or endurance than if the exercise is performed in another way. The exercises are simply different.
  10. A variety of exercises can be used for each muscle group and can perhaps provide some physiological and psychological benefits beyond consistently performing the same exercise for a muscle group. However, a variety of exercises for each muscle group need not be performed in one training session but rather across training sessions.
  11. While a few researchers have shown better outcomes for strength and muscular hypertrophy with multiple set protocols, the overall evidence does not support the performance of multiple sets of each exercise or higher volume training.
  12. A guideline is to take about 3-5 seconds to raise the resistance and about 3-5 seconds to lower the resistance using a full range of motion for each repetition. Longer duration repetitions may decrease momentum and increase intensity.
  13. There is not any consistent evidence that the stimulus (repetition performance, number, duration, volume of training) for experienced trainees needs to be different than for beginning trainees. Therefore, there is little or no basis for special ‘advanced’ routines promoted by some organizations, websites, and magazines.
  14. A program for any trainee can consist of eight to 10 exercises performed two to three days per week. Different exercises for each muscle group could be varied across workouts. For example, a squat can be used for the thighs in the first workout in a week and the leg press can be used in the second workout.
  15. One set per exercise performed to volitional fatigue can be used with from 5-6 to 15 repetitions in a set if a 3-5 second (positive / negative), duration repetition is employed.
  16. Training should be on two or three non-consecutive days in the week.



Train Smart: Learning to use R.P.E.


If you have read or used any of my interval training programs, then you know I often recommend creating your own personal R.P.E. scale as a means of measuring both exercise intensity as well as overall performance progression.


Creating an R.P.E. scale allows the exerciser to subjectively rate his / her feelings during exercise, taking into account personal fitness level, environmental conditions, and general fatigue levels. Perceived exertion ratings correlate highly with measured exercise heart rates and calculated oxygen consumption values. The R.P.E. scale has been found to be a valuable and reliable indicator in monitoring an individuals exercise tolerance and is often used by fitness professionals while conducting graded exercise tests. Here is an example of how to create your own personal R.P.E. scale. We’ll use the numbers ** 0-10 where 0 = nothing at all (the feeling of sitting at home watching TV) and 10 = Very, very hard (the feeling of running as fast as possible for 100-400 meters). You can actually use this R.P.E. scale as a way to measure both intensity and progress. If you are training on a machine* at resistance level 5 and you feel you are at an “8” on your personal R.P.E. scale, you know you have improved when your R.P.E. for the same exercise and resistance level has dropped to a “6” after several sessions. In the following program I will make suggestions for R.P.E. intensity levels to work towards and it will be up to you to match those levels of intensity to your current ability using your personal R.P.E. scale.

Example R.P.E. Level Rating:

1. I’m resting on the couch

2. I’m comfortable and could maintain this pace all day long

3. I’m still comfortable, but am breathing a bit harder

4. I’m sweating now, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly

5. I’m just above comfortable, am sweating more and can still talk easily

6. I can still talk, but am slightly breathless

7. I can continue at this pace with some discomfort, talking in short bursts

8. I can only nod in response to your questions and won’t last long at this pace

9. I am very uncomfortable, losing focus and finding it almost impossible to continue

10. I physically cannot continue or I will surely collapse

EXAMPLE WORKOUT: (Use Mode or Tool of choice)

The protocol consists of a graduated, three-minute warm-up, which will elevate the level of perceived exertion to a seven on the RPE scale, as identified in the example above. Following the warm-up phase, perform three-minute work intervals, followed by one minute of rest. During each work interval, (depending on the mode or tool you are using) adjust speed, incline, and / or, resistance in order to achieve a maximal effort that may be sustained over the three minute period. The work / rest intervals should be repeated three to five times, depending upon your level of fatigue. Stop the workout when you feel you have reached a point at which you cannot continue.

During each rest interval ask yourself what is my perceived exertion based on the rating system described above. Do your best to distinguish between overall perceived exertion, and the perception of effort in only the legs. In this way, one may more accurately gauge the overall workout R.P.E..

So remember an R.P.E. scale is simply a reference scale designed to provide exercisers with easily understood  guidelines regarding exercise intensity.

Take the time to create your own R.P.E. scale and start getting more out of your training.

Train Smart = Win Easy.

Pau for Now


*Use any tool you prefer: For example

Jump Rope


Using a sled for training is a topic that appears on many discussion boards. Most, usually want to know where to buy one. If you look you’ll find a number of places to buy some real nice looking sleds and harnesses. The problem is that they must be made of gold or some other precious metal. I’ve never found one for less than $100.00 plus shipping.

What I did was get an old garden wheel barrow, take off all the hardware, so just the tub is left. I drilled two holes in the front, put a 2X6 inside the tub up against the front and screwed two large screw eyes from the front side into the wood. This is where I hooked a plastic covered wire strand dog tie out onto. (They have metal snap hooks on each end) The handle is made of a 2 inch piece of PVC (I don’t like harnesses) But you could use a harness or tie a rope from the tub to a lifting belt. I put several 12 ½ and a couple of 25 pound Sears plastic weights in the tub. (Admit it you have some) Then I picked up some Kwik Crete (2-80 pound bags) and mixed them onto the weights already in the tub. When finished the sled weighs in at 190 plus pounds. If I pulled it on the driveway or road it would probably move pretty well. But I do it in the back yard and its soft back there and sometimes very hard to do multiple pulls. This suits me fine because I don’t want to spend a bunch of time getting in a workout (remember High Intensity Training?)

For added weight I put a pipe in the wet cement so I could put extra plates on and not worry about them sliding off. In the past I’ve used the sled and 2 45’s. And sometimes had my Grand Daughter ride on it. Lately it works well just as it is. Several people have pulled it and so far all like the big handle for hand comfort. I also built another one for those that can’t possibly pull the “stone cold sled.” For that one I went to Home Depot and picked up the mid size plastic cement mixing box.  If you look for them they are black plastic boxes and will be near the cement bags. I also picked up a couple of large screw eyes and screwed them through the front of the box into a 2X4. This way when you pull you won’t pull out the front of the box. I hooked a rope through a metal pipe for a handle. With this sled I can just add the desired weight into the box. This sled slides real well in the back yard and usually is pulled by female clients.

As far as technique goes, I don’t run with the sled. I just pull or drag at a steady pace for as many 50 yard trips as I can make. Great conditioning tool and the “stone cold sled” is also a damn good strength tool. In the Florida heat it becomes a test of will. Helps flatten out the bumps in your back yard too. 

I don’t have any certain times I pull it. I just fit it in whenever I feel like it. Some weeks I do it daily. Some weeks I don’t pull at all. And instead do rope climbing or another outdoor activity. I saved a bunch of money on this. I only had to buy two screw eyes, two bags of cement, and a plastic mixing box. The rest I had laying around.

Jim Bryan

Bryan Strength & Conditioning
TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to Jim for always sharing some great stuff with us here at Hybrid Fitness. We have a “Poor Mans Pulling Sled Video on our YouTube Channel as well. Check it out HERE:

“Circus Training”

By Jim Bryan
It’s funny how things come and go, only to come and go again. The “functional Training gimmick” has been with us for awhile, even though it has been for the most part debunked over and over. (For a back ground look up the S.A.I.D. Principal.) What it says is this: The body is always trying to get better at exactly what you practice. To get better at your sport, practice your sport.
To get proper “carry over” what you do has to be “EXACT” to your sport, not similar, “EXACT.”  Sooooooo, what in the world does standing on a stability ball and having your “trainer” throw a medicine ball to you  have to do with being able to play base ball, soccer, foot ball, volley ball, etc? It doesn’t.
But some see this in a gym setting and are very impressed with the “ball standing skill.” They don’t realize that the skill is specific to “standing on a ball” only.  And the “trainers” that push this stuff are incompetent at best or just plain charlatans at worst. I’d like to say that trainers that work with high level athletes have the background to be able to figure this out. I’d like to but I can’t. You see, many of these so called trainers are just looking for gimmicks to “set them apart” and make them look cool or more knowledgeable. In reality they are pathetic and put everyone they train in danger. Just because a trainer is certified doesn’t mean they are capable.
I have been training in a big commercial gym now for about 2 years. A few of the trainers there are good, solid in their knowledge, and safe. Others are horrible. It’s like this in most gyms and even more so in the “Sports Training Facilities.” Strength Training is general. Sports Training is specific.
Standing on a stability ball while lifting weights, or catching medicine balls or any other trick, is not training for your sport. It is training for a job in the circus. And if you are a high level athlete, why expose yourself to this kind of silliness? You could end up with a career ending injury.  It does kinda look cool doesn’t it?  
…Roll eyes.
TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my friend and fellow strngth coach Jim Bryan for this weeks excellent article. Stay tuned for more articles based on Truth not Trends.