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Quantify Proximity to Failure

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# AUTOREGULATING VOLUME WITH ABSOLUTE VELOCITY STOPS: A SOLUTION TO ACCURATELY QUANTIFY PROXIMITY TO FAILURE

Currently, the most commonly employed method of volume autoregulation is the RPE stop; however, it is limited by its inability to accurately quantify proximity to failure. Join me as I address six different examples of employing absolute velocity stops as a solution to the RPE stop, while integrating velocity loss in order to prescribe the optimal proximity to failure.

– by –

Landyn Hickmott, MS, CSCS

Key Points

• RPE stops fail to accurately quantify proximity to failure due to their inherent subjectivity
• Individualized absolute velocity stops can be proposed as a solution to rectify the limitations of RPE stops and accurately quantify proximity to failure
• The optimal proximity to failure depends on the percentage of 1RM on the bar and the number of repetitions performed within the set

## Introduction

Did you know that there is a superior method than the RPE stop in order to autoregulate volume? I term it the absolute velocity stop. Absolute velocity stops involve terminating the set at a specific individualized absolute velocity value in order to accurately quantify proximity to failure and appropriately autoregulate volume. Moreover, velocity loss dictates the optimal proximity to failure, which is contingent upon the percentage of one-repetition maximum (1RM) on the bar and the number of repetitions performed within the set. As a quick recap, remember that subjective RPE ratings have been demonstrated to be very inaccurate; thus, RPE stops are limited by their inaccurate quantification of proximity to failure.

## Individualized Methods of Volume Autoregulation

In this section, I’ll use the first and last rep velocity tables that have been formulated in my article titled SYSTEMATICALLY INDIVIDUALIZING LOAD PRESCRIPTION: FORMULATING AND APPLYING FIRST AND LAST REP VELOCITY TABLES in order to provide practical examples of six different individualized volume autoregulation methods. Keep in mind the optimal RPE ranges that I addressed in the article titled LOSE LESS TO WIN MORE: A COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION OF THE VELOCITY LOSS LITERATURE as you read this article. As a quick recap, for most athletes on most lifts the optimal RPE range at each % of 1RM in order to maintain 0 – 25% VL is the following: 70% of 1RM is 5 RPE, 75% is 5 – 6, 80% is 5 – 7, 85% is 5 – 8, 90% is 5 – 9, and 100% is 5 – 10. Also, the optimal RPE range for each rep number to maintain 0 – 25% VL is the following: 6 reps is 5 RPE, 5 reps is 5 – 6, 4 reps is 5 – 7, 3 reps is 5 – 8, 2 reps is 5 – 9, 1 rep is 5 – 10. Keeping in mind those optimal RPE ranges, I’ll walk through step-by-step examples of the six different volume autoregulation methods.

#### Method 1

The first method of volume autoregulation involves prescribing a particular % of 1RM to use on each set with a particular RPE stop (based on the last rep absolute velocity) to terminate each set. Sessional volume is autoregulated once a total number of reps or total number of sets are achieved. For example, 85% of 1RM with an 8 RPE stop may be prescribed, with a sessional volume cap of 15 total reps or 5 total sets. Specifically, 85% of 1RM with an 8 RPE stop was prescribed, because the optimal RPE range for 85% of 1RM is 5 – 8 RPE. In this example, 255 kilos is used on each set, because 255 kilos is 85% of the sessional 1RM. As illustrated, sets 1 – 4 were all terminated at an 8 RPE based on the last rep absolute velocity, regardless of the number of reps performed per set. In this particular example, why was set 5 terminated at a 7 RPE, and not at an 8 RPE? Upon completion of set 4, 13 total repetitions in the session were performed; thus, on set 5 only 2 repetitions were required in order to meet the volume cap of 15 total reps.

#### Method 2

The second method of volume autoregulation involves integrating velocity loss into the first method. Specifically, this method involves prescribing a particular % of 1RM to be used on each set with a particular RPE stop (based on the last rep absolute velocity) or particular velocity loss stop to terminate each set. Again, sessional volume is autoregulated once a total number of reps or total number of sets are achieved. For example, 85% of 1RM with an 8 RPE stop or 25% velocity loss stop may be prescribed, with a sessional volume cap of 15 total reps or 5 total sets. As illustrated, set 1 was terminated prior to an 8 RPE, because 25% velocity loss was reached. However, on sets 2 – 4, each set was terminated prior to a 25% velocity loss, because an 8 RPE was reached. This session was terminated after only 4 sets, because the sessional volume cap of 15 total reps was reached.

#### Method 3

The third method of volume autoregulation involves prescribing a particular number of reps at a particular % of 1RM for each set. Sessional volume is autoregulated once a specific RPE (based on the last rep absolute velocity) or total number of reps or total number of sets are achieved. For example, 3 reps at 85% of 1RM may be prescribed with a sessional volume cap of an 8 RPE or 15 total reps or 5 total sets. Specifically, 3 reps at 85% of 1RM was prescribed, because the optimal RPE range for 3 reps is 5 – 8, and most athletes can perform ~6 reps art 85% of 1RM; thus, 3 reps will likely provide a 7 RPE. Moreover, sessional volume is capped at an 8 RPE, because the maximal RPE value still within the optimal RPE range for 3 reps is an 8 RPE. As illustrated, sets 1 – 3 were all below an 8 RPE based on the last rep absolute velocity. However, set 4 reached an 8 RPE; thus, the session was terminated as it reached one of the three criteria for the sessional volume cap.

#### Method 4

The fourth method of volume autoregulation involves prescribing a particular number of reps at a particular RPE for set 1. Sessional volume is autoregulated once a specific RPE (based on the last rep absolute velocity) or total number of reps or total number of sets are achieved. For example, 3 reps at a 7 RPE may be prescribed for set 1, with a sessional volume cap of an 8 RPE or 15 total reps or 5 total sets. In this example, 255 kilos is used on each set, because 255 kilos is 85% of the sessional 1RM, and the athlete knows that they can complete 85% of 1RM for 6 reps at a 10 RPE; thus, by definition, 3 reps will be at a 7 RPE. As illustrated, sets 1 – 4 were all below an 8 RPE based on the last rep absolute velocity. However, set 5 reached an 8 RPE; thus, the session was terminated because it achieved all three of the criteria for the sessional volume cap.

#### Method 5

The fifth method of volume autoregulation involves prescribing a particular % of 1RM at a particular RPE stop (based on the last rep absolute velocity) for set 1. On all subsequent sets, the number of reps performed in the set is decreased by one, and sessional volume is autoregulated once the RPE from set 1 or total number of reps or total number of sets are achieved. As illustrated, on set 1, this athlete performed 4 reps until an 8 RPE stop based on the last rep absolute velocity was achieved. Therefore, on sets 2 – 5, 3 reps were performed. This athlete achieved all three of the volume cap criteria: they completed 16 total reps, 5 total sets, and also reached an 8 RPE on set 5.

#### Method 6

The sixth method of volume autoregulation involves prescribing a particular % of 1RM at a particular RPE stop (based on the last rep absolute velocity) for set 1. On all subsequent sets, the load is decreased by a particular % of 1RM and the same number of reps that were achieved on set 1 are performed, and sessional volume is autoregulated once the RPE from set 1 or total number of reps or total number of sets are achieved. In this example, 255 kilos is used on set 1, because 255 kilos is 85% of the sessional 1RM. On set 1, this athlete performed 3 reps until an 8 RPE stop based on the last rep absolute velocity was achieved. Therefore, on sets 2 – 5, 3 reps are performed, and the load is reduced by 2.5% to 250 kilos. This athlete achieved all three of the volume cap criteria: they completed 15 total reps, 5 total sets, and also reached an 8 RPE on set 5.

## Conclusion

Don’t forget to use your own individualized first and last rep velocity tables for all of the aforementioned methods of volume autoregulation. Also, don’t forget the optimal proximity to failure depending on the percentage of 1RM on the bar and the number of repetitions performed within the set. Finally, remember that there are endless methods of volume autoregulation that can be applied that I did not address in this article. As a quick reference guide, a summary of all six volume autoregulation methods addressed in this article is illustrated in table 7.

Key Takeaways

• The optimal proximity to failure depends on the percentage of 1RM on the bar and the number of repetitions performed within the set
• Employ absolute velocity stops rather than RPE stops in order to accurately quantify proximity to failure and appropriately autoregulate volume
• There were six different methods of volume autoregulation presented; however, remember that there are endless other methods to autoregulate volume

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