By all measures, Workout 1 is superior. The reason is that there is a relationship between the amount of weight that you put on the bar and the number of times you can lift it. It's obvious that if the weight is very light, you can do many reps bur it takes a long time. If the weight is very heavy, you can only do a few reps and the lifting will be ended very fast.

For example, using the bench press, suppose that you want to determine your muscular output at the two extreme ends of this spectrum. First you select a very light weight, let's say 10 pounds, and you perform sets of 40 reps at a time. After 25 sets you are completely fatigued and cannot perform another rep. All this takes 45 minutes. You lifted 10 pounds a total of 1,000 times for a total weight of 10,000 pounds. Since it took 45 minutes to lift all that weight, your Power Factor is 222 pounds per minute. That is a low Power Factor; my grandmother could lift more than 222 pounds per minute.

Next, you test the other end of the spectrum by lifting the heaviest weight you possibly can. You put 300 pounds on the bar and, mustering all the strength you can, you perforin 1 rep. You rest for a few seconds, then try to get another rep, but you just can't. Three hundred pounds is your one-rep maximum. This calculation is easy; 300 pounds in 1 minute is a Power Factor of 300 pounds per minute. It's also a very low Power Factor—a fraction of what you are capable of generating.

This example demonstrates a critically important element of strength training. If you lift too light a weight, you cannot generate a high Power Factor, yet if you lift too heavy a weight, you also cannot generate a high Power Factor. Somewhere in the middle lies your personal "sweet spot" where the perfect combination of weight, reps, and time yield your highest possible Power Factor. Finding that spot is the key to maximally efficient and productive workouts.

By the way, it varies considerably between individuals. Imagine that Subjects A and B experiment to determine how the weight they are lifting affects the number of reps they can complete in a 2-minute period. Their results are listed in the table and illustrated with the bar graphs.

As you can see in the graph for Subject A, he generates his highest Power Factor when he has 140 pounds on the bar. At that weight he can get the best ratio of total weight lifted per unit of time. That is his sweet spot.

To understand this concept is the most critical element of Power Factor Training. Subject A can put more weight on the bar—in fact, he can lift 300 pounds—but if he does, the total weight he can lift per minute is greatly decreased. Since human muscles will grow-stronger and larger only when they are taxed beyond their normal operating capacity, it is crucial to discover what your operating capacity is in the first place. Subject A can

 40 120 4.800 2.400 120 4.8 2400 60 106 6.430 3.240 111 6.66 3.330 80 % 7.680 3 840 102 8.16 4.080 too 84 8.400 4200 93 9.3 4,650 120 72 8.640 4.320 84 10.08 5.040 140 63 8.820 4.410 80 11.2 5.600 160 54 8.640 4.320 76 12.16 6.060 180 45 8.100 4,050 72 12.96 6480 200 36 7.200 3.600 68 13.6 6800 220 29 6,380 3.190 64 14.08 7,040 240 22 5.280 2.640 50 12 6.000 260 15 3.900 1950 36 9.36 4.680 280 6 2.240 1.120 16 4.48 2.240 300 2 600 300 4 1.2 600

lift 280 pounds 8 times in 2 minutes, and it will take everything he has to perform those reps, hut it is nowhere-near his muscle's full capacity' for lifting. Therefore, while that routine might generate some adaptive response, it is very inefficient compared to him lifting 140 pounds 63 times in the same 2-minutc period.

This is a well-settled principle of physics. An engine that lifts 4,410 pounds per minute has to he more powerful than an engine that lifts 1,120 pounds per minute.

Weight an Bar (lb.)

Your muscle fibers are the engine; nothing else does the lifting.

Subject B demonstrates the variation that occurs among individuals. His highest Power Factor is achieved when he has 220 pounds on the bar. He can pur more or less weight on the bar, but his personal sweet spot is at 220 pounds.

Why? Many factors contribute to the ability of muscle fibers to activate and to the power they generate. Some of them we know, and some of them we are yet to fully understand. Where the muscle physically attaches to the bone relative to the joint has a profound effect on leverage. The neural pathways between the brain and muscles have varying efficiencies in individuals. The body's ability to supply and process ATP to the muscles varies between individuals, as do the mix of slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers in each muscle. The complex cocktail of blood, oxygen, amino acids, and hormones that supply the entire process has nearly infinite possibilities of variation. But here is the good news. All you have to concentrate on is developing your highest possible Power Factor for each exercise, because it gives a clear indication of what is delivering the most overload to your muscles and what is not.

You can't take blood samples and tissue biopsies after each exercise that you perform in order to analyze which technique is generating the greatest metabolic changes.

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