With the passing years, I’ve realized that percentage-based training continues to play less of a role in my programs; yet my athletes still get stronger and build muscle. Not that there is anything wrong with percentage-based training, but I feel it’s a waste of time to spend a whole training session on determining 1–2 numbers when we could spend that time instead focused on training.
However, I find having athletes pick their own weights to be a real hit-or-miss scenario, and it takes them too long to really understand what a light to heavy load at a certain rep scheme feels like. I still want athletes to have numbers to reference and be able to collect data over time rather than a couple times a year. This is where APRE hit my radar—I consider it an effective tool that solves problems and allows athletes to constantly push themselves with either more weight or more reps.
In addition, this program incorporates an autoregulatory component, which helps drive individualization for large groups.I consider APRE an effective tool that solves problems and allows athletes to constantly push themselves with either more weight or more reps, says @Mccharles187. Click To Tweet
What Is APRE?
If you are not familiar with APRE, it is an acronym created by Bryan Mann that stands for autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise. With APRE, you incorporate the barbell back squat, bench press, and deadlift and perform two warm-up sets and two working sets for each exercise performed on separate days (e.g., Back Squat Monday, Bench Press Wednesday, and Deadlift Friday).
There are three phases of APRE that coordinate with a certain rep range depending on your goals for the athletes: APRE 10 (10-rep range between 65% and 75% of 1RM), APRE 6 (6-rep range between 75% and 85% of 1RM), and APRE 3 (3-rep range between 85% and 95% of 1RM). APRE 10 is used for work capacity and hypertrophy, APRE 6 is used for hypertrophy and strength, and APRE 3 is used for heavy strength focus. (You can find the APRE book here.)
How to Perform APRE Training
You can incorporate these phases for 3–8 weeks before moving on to the next phase or using a different program. First, the athletes perform two warm-up sets. Second, on the first working set, athletes perform as many reps as possible at the designated rep max (10RM, 6RM, or 3RM) based on whether you are using APRE 10, 6, or 3 (75%, 85%, 93%, respectively). Depending on how many reps you perform, the reps completed will determine whether you decrease, increase, or keep the same weight for your second working set using the APRE chart.
On the last working set (this should be your fourth set at this point), you perform as many reps as possible again with your adjusted weight and record both the weight and the reps. How many reps you performed on set 4 will help you determine how to adjust your first working set the next time you perform that exercise using the same APRE chart. Here is the APRE chart as a reference:
Using APRE this way allows you to adjust the weight each training day and the following session to ensure you are hitting the desired rep ranges at optimal volume and intensity. Once you teach it to your athletes the first week, you can have them record their own data, allow them to keep pushing for new goals, and watch their weight or reps climb. From there, they can see immediate results from the program, which then builds buy-in much faster.
This becomes important in large group settings because you’d most likely be able to record smaller groups yourself, but a large group may prove inefficient to get through everybody in a timely fashion. If you can teach your athletes to record their own data and have leaders hold the team accountable, you can focus on watching the reps and making sure proper technique is always utilized.
How I Use APRE
While I was the strength coach at Western Technical College and training the baseball team, I decided to try APRE with my athletes and was amazed at how successful this program was. After a four-week technical and work capacity block to ensure the team could move effectively and perform the main movements with good technique, I started with APRE 10 for three weeks:
- Mondays we back squatted.
- Wednesdays we deadlifted and dumbbell bench pressed.
- Fridays we did barbell split squats (though I didn’t use APRE for this, as it is not designed for unilateral movements).
After warm-ups and plyometrics, we would go right to the first main movement of the day and perform three warm-up sets. (I didn’t want my athletes making huge jumps in weight between the two warm-ups and the first working set, so I added an extra one.) Then, we did our two working sets using APRE as the guide to adjust the weight.
The first step was teaching the athletes what the system was and how to execute it correctly. I explained that you perform three warm-ups sets and two working sets, increasing the weight to work up to a 10-rep max (we are in APRE 10) on the first working set. Based on the reps performed on that first working set, refer to the chart (I put the APRE chart on their workout card) to adjust the last working set and perform as many reps as possible with good technique, leaving 1-2 reps left in the tank—I didn’t want them going to failure and potentially hurting themselves. Then, they needed to write down the weight and reps performed on that last set to reference the following week.I was able to successfully implement APRE without an estimated training max for any of the athletes to reference and used the first week to set the baseline and adjust the weight from there. Click To Tweet
After the first week, my athletes understood how the system worked and had no problems obtaining good data, which they wrote on their workout card every session we used APRE. I was able to successfully implement APRE without an estimated training max for any of the athletes to reference and used the first week to set the baseline and adjust the weight from there.
Every week, I would see 5- to 10-pound increases from the prior week, or the athletes were able to perform 2–6 more reps of the same weight. Technically, you’re not supposed to use APRE on dumbbell movements, but I tried it with the dumbbell bench press after deadlifts because we lacked the space and equipment to do the barbell bench press. From what I saw, it works just fine, and I didn’t run into any issues when using APRE 10 in this instance; however, always be cautious when adjusting a program in ways it wasn’t designed for.
I did not get the chance to try it with APRE 6 or APRE 3, as I moved on to another job before I was able to do so. You are also not supposed to do APRE with more than one movement per training day, but based on how I set up my program, I ended up doing APRE deadlift and APRE dumbbell bench press on the same day because I wanted Wednesday to be a high-intensity day—this left Friday as a lower-intensity day, as I was following a daily undulated pattern. Because I used dumbbell bench press instead of the barbell version, it was less strenuous and more manageable to perform after doing APRE on deadlifts. In short:
- Monday (moderate intensity): APRE back squat.
- Wednesday (high Intensity): APRE deadlift and APRE dumbbell bench press.
- Friday (lower intensity): no APRE, using a standard set and rep scheme (4x10e) on the barbell split squat and letting the players decide the appropriate weight.
After doing APRE on the main movements, we would move on to accessory movements using regular set and rep schemes. Each day was still a total body lift three times per week. Every workout had a squat, hinge, upper press, and upper pull, and mobility work. All I essentially did was add APRE to the main movements of the day and keep the accessory work simple.
This was another factor that helps with large groups, because I didn’t want to completely change my program and wanted to merge APRE into what we were already doing. This made it easier to teach large groups what to do since they had the workout structure down. I just needed to teach the set and rep schemes and structure of APRE to our main movements.A tip with large groups is to pair your exercises. I paired my APRE movements with our accessory work to have built-in recovery and get through the training sessions faster, says @Mccharles187. Click To Tweet
Another tip with large groups is to pair your exercises. I paired my APRE movements with our accessory work to have built-in recovery and get through the training sessions faster. We always focused on getting out of the gym within an hour. Workout structure example:
Warm-ups: Dynamic Warm-up
A1. Upper Body Plyo with Medball
A2. Lower body Plyo
B1. APRE 10 Back Squat
B2. Upper Body Pull (Chin-ups/Pull-ups, Lat-Pull downs, etc.)
B3. Lower Body Mobility
C1. Upper Body Press (either as double or single arm)
C2. Upper Body Shoulder Prehab/Rehab exercise (Being baseball players, I wanted to add shoulder work here to prevent injuries and keep them loose and fresh.)
C3. Upper Body Mobility (focused on thoracic mobility here)
D3. Lower Body Mobility
Finish with Grip/Wrist Work.
6 Reasons Why It Works
1. Volume: This program is very volume focused; therefore, it provides a strong training stimulus to achieve adaptions.
2. Athletes push themselves harder: Since the athletes know what they did the week before, they now have a weight to “beat” or can use that same weight and try to do more reps than the previous week.
3. Daily and weekly data: Instead of having a 1-rep max that they may have done weeks or months ago, I always have data from the latest weight and reps to know where my athletes are at for each training session.
4. Autoregulation: Because this program constantly adjusts for each athlete, every athlete will always hit the optimal volume and intensity every session. If they are having a bad day, we take off weight; if the iron is hot and their CNS is fresh, we add on weight and push the athlete.Once you teach APRE to the athletes, the program essentially runs itself, and you can focus on making sure technique is optimal for the movements. This is huge for doing this in large groups. Click To Tweet
5. Athletes can do it themselves: Once you teach APRE to the athletes, the program essentially runs itself, and you can focus on making sure technique is optimal for the movements. This is huge for doing this in large groups because it would be extremely difficult to write down and keep tabs on 20+ athletes by yourself and get out of the gym within an hour. College kids are smart enough to learn APRE and utilize it themselves, which is awesome to let them have more say in their training.
6. The program adds another invisible coach in the room: Because the program helps athletes adjust weight, you essentially have another coach in the room to ensure the right weight is being used.
When to Use APRE
I use this program when I’m working with people who are looking to add size as their main goal. This is essentially a great hypertrophy program with a bit of strength added in, so if you need your athletes or clients to get bigger and stronger, this is the program to use. I would recommend doing this program early in the off-season because the training volume is extremely high for both APRE 10 and APRE 6, and it therefore creates high fatigue.
You could use APRE 3 in the preseason or even in-season if you play your cards right, but I’d be hesitant because this program does fry the athlete’s CNS quite a bit. So, if they have a big game or competition, I’d recommend doing APRE 3 at least two days before competition to allow time to recover. For example, if they have a game or competition Friday, you can run APRE 3 on Monday or Tuesday, at the latest. If that is not possible, I would lean toward using other methods to keep your athletes fresh, as competition should always take priority.APRE is essentially a great hypertrophy program with a bit of strength added in, so if you need your athletes or clients to get bigger and stronger, this is the program to use, says @Mccharles187. Click To Tweet
Also, keep in mind that this program is for athletes who know how to properly perform the back squat, deadlift, and bench press with good technique. If your athletes are still learning how to perform these lifts, I’d wait to use APRE until they become proficient in those exercises to get the full benefit. APRE is a tool in the toolbox—only use it when it’s the right tool for you and your athletes.
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