Auto-regulating your way to better results
There are two ways of managing volume here.
First, you can prescribe a total number of reps for an exercise, and I would recommend that you get at least 10 reps after the activation set. An example would be (the ‘+’ denotes 10-20sec of reracking the weight and resting): 12 +3+3+2+2 (or 12 +10). Lighter weights generally need more volume, so: 20 +5+5+5+5+5 (or 20 +25) which would also be a productive Myo-rep set. You generally just keep doing mini-sets of 2-5 reps until you hit the prescribed total rep count.
The second way, and my favorite, is auto-regulation where you use a set of “rules” to let the total volume (number of reps) take care of itself based on how you feel that day – your individual recovery level. You will also see this prescription in most of my programs where I implement Myo-reps. Example protocols:
The first part (e.g. 9-12) denotes reps in the activation set, the number after the + is how many reps you will do in the Myo-reps mini-series. So 9-12 +3x will play out like this:
200lbs x 10 +3+3+3+3+2 – you weren’t able to do the third rep of the last set so you stop there
Here’s how auto-regulation works:
Let’s say you had a good night’s sleep, ate well, had a day off from work, and generally feel great and well recovered. The 9-12 +3x protocol would most likely turn out like this:
200lbs x 12 +3+3+3+3+3+3+3+2
Now, let’s say you had a couple of drinks too many at your brother’s bachelor party last night, your girlfriend broke up with you because you fondled the stripper, the neighbour’s cat kept you awake, and you’ve been dieting for 3 months. The same protocol would most likely deteriorate to this:
200lbs x 8 +3+2
Doing less work when your recovery and adaptive reserves are compromised makes logical and practical sense, and you will most likely come back stronger the next time (provided you stay sober, stop dieting, kiss and make up with your girlfriend – or the stripper if she was really hot) vs. struggling to do the same amount of work you had planned to, or even more by adding sets and dropsets to punish yourself for being such a failure as a human being. Stimulate, don’t annihilate.
You will also note that various muscle groups and exercises have different recovery rates and volume tolerances, so if you consistently get something like 8 +3+2 I recommend the following adjustments:
Do 9-12 +2x instead of 3x. (3x instead of 4x etc)
Add more rest in the Myo-rep set, e.g. 15 deep breaths instead of 10
If you insist on going to absolute failure on the activation set, I strongly recommend a period of leaving 1-2 reps in reserve. There’s not so much to be gained from that last rep or two in terms of muscular stimulation – but it vastly increases the neural stress, and it is easily compensated by getting in more total volume at the end.
If your recovery rate and volume tolerance is exceptional and you seem to be able to just keep going forever with +3x, you would obviously use the opposite strategy to compensate (4x, shorter rest, work closer to failure).
Note that you can also do more reps in the Myo-rep series by doing short ROM partial reps.