I start every exercise with 3 sets of 3 reps, then I add between 1 and 3 reps each workout, so that it takes me very long to achieve 3 sets of 15 reps. Then I increase the load and start again with 3 reps.

The rationale behind this is maximizing safety, avoiding tendinitis and other possible injuries. After I spent more than a year recovering from a painful shoulder surgery, I decided I would do my best to avoid a similar situation in the future.

The thing is, I am not sure if I am wasting my time, of if the high rep range is at all safer. I get sometimes pretty sore even when I am close to the high-rep range of each cycle.

The goal is strength, but I cannot work always in the low rep range because I am 42 yr and prone to overuse injuries. I must somehow cycle between low and higher reps, but, isn't it going up to 15 reps too much?


From Dave's answer I understand that it might be a good idea to implement some short of microcycles, so that I alternate more often between the strength and endurance ends of the rep spectrum. I have posted a new question on how to implement that specifically in my case. But I still hope for other possible approches here (e.g., leaving the cycle from 3 to 15 reps as it is now but reducing the number of sets close to the high end?)

1 Answer 1


The biggest problem I see with this approach is that you spend a lot of time in opposite ends of the volume spectrum. Look at total reps over time:

  • 9
  • 12
  • 15
  • 18
  • 21
  • 24
  • 27
  • 30
  • 33
  • 36
  • 39
  • 42
  • 45

That's eight workouts in a row of fairly high volume, followed by a dropoff to extremely low volume that's sustained for two workouts. Depending on the number of workouts you do a week, you could be either dodging supercompensation with such an approach, or sitting around in an "overreaching" (the precursor to overtraining) state for too long. Are you taking advantage of that long stay in high volume by riding the supercompensation wave, or is the high volume merely grinding you down before you throw away its benefits by adding too little weight or by spending too long a time in the 8-12 rep range?

Higher rep ranges can be safer, but high volume is stressful. That can be useful and it can be dangerous. I don't have any direct advice since you're at least a little atypical and I don't have much information about you, but you could probably learn from looking into programs like 5/3/1 that fluctuate rep ranges over the course of each week and that incorporate low-volume, low-intensity rest weeks every month.

  • Thanks. Nice information (I have to read now about "supercompensation" and that 5/3/1 system). It takes even longer to go from 3x3 to 3x15, because often I only add one or two reps per workout. The thing is, I start to suspect that the high rep range and high volume is not necessarily safer.
    – Mephisto
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 5:43

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