RE: Vegan Gains, ATHLEAN-X, and “Perfect Workouts”

This video is a response to Vegan Gains’ recent video to ATHLEAN-X titled “ATHLEAN-X Fails to Make Perfect Workouts”.

Now, I haven’t done a training-oriented video what feels like a good while, so I felt this was a nice change of pace.

I am in no way defending Jeff Cavaliere with this video, as I don’t really watch Jeff’s material enough to hold a position about his content as a whole. Rather, I am just providing my own views and clarifications on some training topics that Richard had discussed, as well as sharing some relevant research on the subject. Maybe you all will learn something.

Richard’s channel is one of only a handful that I actually keep up with to any degree.

You can watch Richard’s video for the full context, as I won’t be splicing in clips. I’ve linked that video below for your convenience.

Now, I agree with Richard that training should be specific to your goals, and this includes, but is not limited to using an appropriate rep range to optimize said goals. Generally-speaking, that is. I will elaborate on this topic in a moment, because this will be the main talking point of this video, and an area where Richard and I seem to diverge.

I also agree with Richard’s criticisms of Jeff’s use of terminology. For instance, at approximately 4:47 into Richard’s video, he featured a clip of Jeff incorrectly using the term “overreaching”… as Richard explained.

I feel that the better term for Jeff to have used would have been “post-activation potentiation”, or PAP.

And you can search Google for numerous papers and articles on the subject of PAP.

Basically, PAP is defined as “a phenomenon by which the force exerted by a muscle is increased due to its previous contraction.”

Since we’re on the topic, a way that I’ve applied PAP in my own training experimentation would be to start with a very heavy set of, say, 95-97% of my 1-rep-max. And I would perform only 1 rep for that set, even if I feel that I have another good rep in the tank.

Then, I would rest about a minute, and while I am resting, I would reduce the weight on the bar to 75-80% of my 1-rep-max, which would normally net me 8-10 reps.

After that brief rest, I would crank out one or two more sets with the lower weight to failure, but due to PAP, I typically would get 1-2 additional reps than normal on those sets.

And I’ve also applied PAP to my martial arts training. For example, hitting the heavy bag or pads for a round while my arms or legs are “weighted” by resistance bands. At the end of that grueling round, I’d remove the resistance bands during a short rest break, and then proceed to hit the bag or pads for a round without the added resistance. And I’d immediately notice that my strikes are both faster and more powerful than normal.

But, that’s enough of an aside, let’s explore rep ranges as they relate to strength and hypertrophy. The focus of this video.

Schoenfeld and company published a paper in 2014 which found that both 3 sets of 10 reps and 7 sets of 3 reps produced similar increases in muscular size, but the 7 x 3 group experienced superior strength gains.

Another paper by Schoenfeld and company, published a year later in 2015, demonstrated that both 3 sets of 8-12 reps and 3 sets of 25-35 reps, when taken to failure, can elicit significant increases in muscle growth in well-trained young men. However, the 8-12 group witnessed superior strength adaptations compared to the 25-35 rep group.

And yet another paper, this time a 2017 meta-analysis, was published by Schoenfeld and company demonstrating once more that maximal strength benefits are obtained from the use of heavy loads, but muscle growth can be achieved across a spectrum of loading ranges, whether light or heavy.

Furthermore, a 2018 paper by Fink and company, discovered that while performing 3-sets-per-exercise with your 20-rep-max produced significantly more muscle growth than performing 3-sets-per-exercise with your 8-rep-max, the 8-rep-max group enjoyed significant gains in strength, whereas the 20-rep-max group actually lost a little strength!

And we see this trend repeat again, and again, and again in the research. Ad nauseam.

So, Richard appears to be correct in his assertions going by the current body of data. But, this is not to say that higher-rep training has no place in a quality strength program either, you just need to program the higher-rep work appropriately.

Let’s explore that concept for a moment.

A 2004 paper by Goto and team found that performing a single higher-rep set at 50% of your 1-rep-max, which falls in the range of 20-25 reps, directly following 5 heavier sets at 90% of your 1-rep-max leads to not only greater muscle growth, but also greater increases in 1-rep-max, maximal isokinetic strength, and muscular endurance.

And that was compared to lifters who did not perform the additional lighter set, just the 5 heavy sets at 90% 1-rep-max.

And another paper, this time from 2015 by Aguiar and colleagues, found that trainees who performed a single, light-weight set at 20% of their 1-rep-max, which is about 45-55 reps, directly before 3 sets at 75% of their 1-rep-max built more strength and more muscle than those who did not perform that lighter, pre-exhaustive set.

The researchers of that paper theorized that the reason for this is “metabolic accumulation” induced by the pre-exhaustive, lighter set promoting a “greater global recruitment of type II (muscle) fibers” in the subsequent three sets.

And there are other papers, such as this one, by Goto and colleagues, which demonstrate the benefits of combining heavier and lighter work in your training program for improvements in strength, size, and more.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still recommend a good periodized training program, whether your goal is size, strength, or both.

Even that 2004 paper that I had cited had all of the participants run a higher-rep, hypertrophic-style training protocol for 6 weeks prior to the heavier phase.

And users of my eBook “Beast Mode by Science”, which is linked below, will notice that it also features periodization.

Though, that particular eBook is more geared toward aesthetics. That said, I do offer other products that focus more so on strength.

And here is what one of my customers recently shared about his own strength results after 4 months of using my eBook “Rock It Old School”, which is linked below. He gained over 60 lbs. on his bench, 75 lbs. on his squat, and 85 lbs. on his deadlift!

And my training programs incorporate numerous research-based concepts, such as the inclusion of the aforementioned lighter sets, to optimize a user’s results.

So, do check out my various eBook offerings, all of which are linked below.

Which can help you achieve results like those seen on my clients pictured here.

And, hell, use the coupon code “TRY20” at checkout to take 20% off any of my eBooks, including the bundle offer which already saves you $13.90!

Give ’em a go, and let me know what you think!

Anyway, leave your thoughts and comments below.


Vegan Gains’ video “ATHLEAN-X Fails to Make Perfect Workouts”

“Beast Mode By Science 2nd Edition”:

“The Upgraded Man 2nd Edition”:

“Rock It Old School”:

“The Upgraded Woman”:

Bundle Offer (Save $13.90): “Beast Mode by Science 2nd Edition” + “The Upgraded Man 2nd Edition” + “Rock It Old School”:

Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men.

Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men.

Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

Effects of rest intervals and training loads on metabolic stress and muscle hypertrophy.

Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones.

Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men

Low-Load Bench Press Training to Fatigue Results in Muscle Hypertrophy Similar to High-Load Bench Press Training

Muscular adaptations to combinations of high- and low-intensity resistance exercises.

A single set of exhaustive exercise before resistance training improves muscular performance in young men.

Leave a Comment: