I've interviewed quite a few prolific people in the fitness intdustry over the years, but this is by far my favorite piece, so I'm re-publishing it. Christian is one of those rare guys that is constantly coming up with new ideas, based on a strong scientific background infused into calculated trial and error, instead of rehashing old shit or trying to publish wild ideas to be different.
Christian thinks more about biomechanics and the intricacies of hypertophy in his morning shower than the rest of us are all year long. And he gets paid damn good money to write for T-mag (I know, I wrote for them, and even my measly freelance rate was pretty solid), but he did this interview with me for free...not because I was going to drive him traffic or pitch his products, but because he absolutely loves this shit, and is just a cool enough guy to be willing to talk about it for the sake of sharing knowledge. So here it is, the original interview in its entirety.
Christian Thibaudeau is an Olympic Lifter, Bodybuilder, and highly sought after Strength Coach. He currently writes forTestosterone Magazine, and has been pumping out high quality articles for as long as I can remember. As a fan of the iconic contributors to the field such as Mel Siff, Vladimir Zatsiorski, Charlie Francis, Fret Hatfield, Charles Poliquin, Pierre Roy, etc., I rarely find current fitness writers that bring something new to the table. Christian is this guy.
Recently, he published a few articles covering a concept he calls “The Perfect Rep”, which is what I wanted to talk to him about in this interview today. He really unloaded some good info here, so enjoy.
MM: You recently said that in this past year you’ve learned more than the previous 10 years combined. You’ve summarized much of this in what you call “The Perfect Rep”. I know there’s a lot too it, but give an overview of this concept for us for those that haven’t read your articles on the topic.
CT: Well to be fair, these past two years it’s not so much that I learned more than during the previous 10, but rather that I understood why a lot of stuff I was already doing was effective.
I also realized that a lot of stuff that I believed was very important; wasn’t. And that a lot of things that I didn’t pay much attention to were the real keys to progress.
MM: Interesting…like what?
CT: Well, for example all my training life I ramped up the weights gradually until I reached the maximum weight I could use in good form for the prescribed number of reps. As an Olympic lifter that’s always how we trained; just look at videos of the training of elite Olympic lifters (www.ironmind.com) and you’ll see that they might do something like 50kg for a few sets of 3, 70kg for a few sets of 3, 90kg for a few sets of 2, 110kg x 2, 120kg x 1, 130kg x 1, 140kg x 1 and 150kg x 1. Some called it “warming-up” be we used the term “practice sets”.
MM: Yeah, that’s how I’ve typically structured my warm up prescriptions, many sets of low reps, gradually increasing load.
CT: Even when I was a football player that’s how I trained. Our high school football coach was a former Olympic lifter so even when I started out structured lifting at 14 years old I learned to ramp up the weight gradually.
Since I always did this, even when I switched more to a bodybuilding approach that’s how I did things. So when I wrote programs for the internet a lot of people screwed up because I never bothered to tell them that 5 x 5 meant doing 5 sets of 5 reps with gradually heavier weights, the last set being the heaviest one. People who read the program did 5 all out sets while in my mind it meant one all out set and 4 progressively heavier sets.
Those first 4 sets would still have a training effect because I always learned to lift with as much acceleration as the weight and fatigue level would allow. This is what I call “the perfect rep”.
MM: That makes sense. Let's dig deeper and look at the key points of The Perfect Rep; can you offer a brief explanation of each (I've listed them here for the readers):
1. Max Force Lifting/Lowering, and the Max Force Point
2. SRP Twitch Turnaround
3. Force Spectrum Ramping
CT: While there are a lot of cool terms now associated with the perfect rep understand that the real key concept behind the perfect rep is milking each single repetition for all it’s worth.
Basically you should approach every single repetition as if it were the only thing you were allowed to do on that day. So you have to focus on making that one rep as productive as possible.
Each repetition has several phases: an eccentric pre-load, a turnaround point from the eccentric to the concentric as well as a concentric/lifting portion. You can also add a phase between the end of the lifting phase and the beginning of the next repetition’s eccentric phase.
In order to make every repetition as productive as possible it stands to reason that every one of those phases should be performed in an optimal manner.
The concentric/lifting portion is the easiest to understand. It’s simple physics: Force = Mass x Acceleration. You can increase the force required to lift a weight either by increasing the weight or the acceleration you are trying to impart to the source of resistance.
MM: So it’s really just increased force we’re after, and most people are only focusing on the Mass part of the formula.
CT: Right. To illustrate the acceleration concept I always use throwing a baseball as an example: to throw a baseball 200 feet requires that you throw the ball with more speed/acceleration than if you had to throw it 20 feet. Thus throwing that ball from centerfield to home plate requires that you produce a lot of force while tossing the ball from home plate back to the pitcher is a breeze.
Same thing goes with lifting a weight; you can drastically increase the amount of force you have to produce if you attempt to lift the load with acceleration.