8 x 3

What is the purpose of 8 sets x 3 reps training?


I will be incorporating some ‘Dynamic Effort’ (‘DE’) training. This typically involves a high number of sets (8 or 10 are good) and a low number of reps (2 or 3 are good) at a sub-maximal load. A lot of people ask  what is the purpose of this structure, as opposed to the more common 3×10 or 5×5? It’s a good question, because 3 reps doesn’t seem like it would exert enough time under tension for the muscles, and a sub-maximal load won’t particularly stress the muscles either. Even I would imagine that less sets and more reps would tax the muscles more (which is usually the overall aim in weight training).

So what is the purpose of this high set/low rep style of training?

The emphasis here should be on the name, Dynamic Effort training. Muscles can actually grow in response to several styles of training, such as:

  1. Maximal effort training – hitting 1, 2, 3 or 4 rep maxes are common ones
  2. Sub-maximal effort training to failure or near to failure – this is usually done through schemes such as 3×10 or 5×5
  3. Lifting a sub-maximal weight at maximal speed – this is what we mean by ‘dynamic effort’ training

So now that we’ve established that muscles can indeed grow through dynamic training methods, let me explain how this training style actually works.

What is dynamic effort lifting?

It is using a light to moderate weight (I usually use between 50-75% of max), perform the exercise as fast as possible through the concentric portion of the lift. So, if you’re squatting, coming up out of the ‘hole’ should be fast; if you’re benching, pushing the bar up from your chest should be fast.

Coming up out of the hole in the squat

The ‘hole’ in the squat

Why do we use dynamic effort?

2 or 3 rep sets are better than higher rep sets on dynamic effort days because you will have the energy to apply the optimal amount of velocity and force to the bar on every repetition. Even over the length of 8 or 10 sets, you should still have the energy to make every rep count. Simply put, all reps will be of consistently high quality – fast and explosive. If you tried the dynamic method for say 6+ reps, you will likely tire out, form will break down, and you’ll be unable to exert the velocity and force needed to make the lifting actually be “dynamic”.

Even though there are 8 or 10 sets, the rest time in between should be enough to recover you fully for the next. You will probably find that doing 10 or 8 sets of 2 or 3 reps with say a minute rest in between sets, is a lot less exhausting than you imagine.

Dynamic effort training is really good at teaching you to be explosive and improving acceleration on the barbell or your body. You will develop speed and power, and consequently get stronger.

How to use it?

The tried and tested method is to use a ‘wave’. For example, over a four week period you would wave like this:

Week 1 – 8×3 at 50% max

Week 2 – 8×3 at 55% max

Week 3 – 8×3 at 60% max

Week 4 – 8×3 at 65% max

Rest time between sets is usually between 60 and 90 seconds.

Dynamic effort exercises

Bench Press

Some exercises are more suitable to dynamic effort training than others. Squats, deadlifts and bench presses are good choices. Snatches, Cleans and Jerks are also fantastic, because they’re supposed to be extremely quick anyway. Just be aware that when you do dynamic training, you should be competent in the technique of the exercises. Good form, perfect reps every time is the goal!

Besides getting big and looking the part we need to be both strong and fast under the bar. By incorporating dynamic effort training into a workout routine, it  helps to break any plateaus.


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