Sets & Reps – Ashley Jones

Author Ashley Jones

As Louie Simmons has often been quoted as saying, “Getting stronger is all about maths and physics”. No truer phrase has been offered. I love numbers and the symmetry of the organization of training through the manipulation of volume and intensity with a range of sets and reps protocols.

Another idea I have borrowed from the strongmen of yesteryear is the use of a minimal number of exercises per training sessions. Often just performing one exercise but increasing the number of daily and weekly sessions to accommodate the complete development. Similar to the Bulgarian weightlifting model, I like to concentrate and perfect form on the major compound movements, particularly the Olympic lifts.

One set and rep protocol I have been using regularly over the last wee while is:

3 x 3, 4 x 2, 5 x 1

Often changing the exercise say, from Military Presses to Push Presses to Split jerks over the course of the workout.

Today I tried just the one exercise approach, using split style snatches from various positions, high blocks, blocks at knee level and finally from the floor and worked over the following protocol:

3 x 3, 6 x 2, 12 x 1

I know this is a lot of sets for one exercise and I would not use it all the time but it did achieve the result I wanted. I wanted to perfect form on this movement with incrementally heavier weights, so using a greater number of sets were used as the reps decreased. The 3’s were above 70%, the 2’s above 80% and finally the singles were above 90%.

There is an excellent article my Jim Schmitz in the June 2008 edition of Milo on the use of the split lifts, accompanied as always with some wonderful pictures of the lifters of yesteryear, well worth a read, and timely advise on the incorporation of these gems into your sports programming, personally, I can not wait to try two of his ideas for programming, sets of 4 reps, but performing a slightly different movement for each rep, here is one to wet your appetite, I will probably do 6 sets of this fun complex:

Rep 1: Power Snatch
Rep 2: Split Snatch with left leg forward
Rep 3: Split Snatch with right leg forward
Rep 4: Full Squat Snatch

Another excellent and informative article on the use of the split lifts is in Pure Power, March 2002, written by John Cissik, he has some great sequence pictures to assist you conceptualization of the movements and some detailed programming information as well.

Time to Split, enjoy, ash


Hi Ash,
Love the new site. Enjoying reading all of the posts. As always I learn a lot from your contributions.

Wondered what you make of this. I have been playing around with a few ideas and have been using this once a week with work on clean and snatch individually on the other 2 days. I originally used it because I wanted to keep working on my technique for a variety of weightlifting derivatives (getting there slowly). It’s working out for me quite well. I’d love to know what you think.

12×2 Pulling variations. I start with Hang Snatch and increase the weight each set until I cant Hang snatch it any more. Then I move on to the next derivative that I can handle more weight with i.e. Power Snatch. Then I continue to load until thats stuffed and move on to the next exercise. Within the 12 sets I use:

Hang Snatch
Power Snatch
Hang Clean
Power Clean
High Pull

So a continuum from speed strength – strength Speed

at the moment it looks roughly like this…

60kgs – Hang Snatch
65kgs – Hang Snatch
70kgs – Hang Snatch
75kgs – Power Snatch
85kgs – Hang Clean
95kgs – Hang Clean
105kgs – Hang Clean/Power Clean
115kgs – Power Clean
120kgs – Power Clean (by the skin of my teeth)
125kgs – High Pull
160kgs – Deadlift (fastish)
170kgs – Deadlift (pretty bloody slow)

My aim is to improve by 2.5kgs across the board per week…

At the moment I tend to do 1x Olympic, 1 x Squat, 1x Posterior chain, 1x UB Press/Pull Superset and finish with abs. My week looks like this…

Olympic – the above
Squat – Front squat
P. Chain – RDL
Press/Pull – Bench/Bent over row

Olympic – Hang Clean/Power Clean
Squat – Back Squat
P.Chain – Good mornings
Press/Pull – Military Press/Chins

Olympic – Hang Snatch/Power Snatch
Squat – Bulgarian Split Squat
P. Chain – Single Leg RDL
Press/Pull – Incline DB Bench/Upright Row

It’s pretty challenging for me but I am progressing well using it for now, and I’m having fun. For the other exercises i’m using an accum- intens. rep range no greater than 5×5 (still love Bill Star’s big 3 programme) I’ll change it up when it stops working unless you can offer any fine tuning in the mean time?

Mate hope you are well.


Hey Adam, I love it, if more people trained like this, well I would be out of work, what a great overall plan to achieve what you want, power/strength and size, great job. I must admit I have really enjoyed using the blocks with Jim Schmitz’s program’s from Milo over the last wee while, like what I posted the other day on workout of the week, if someone used the program exactly as you have written it I would have no additions, it is complete and well thought out, cheers, ash

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

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