“The thing that ties all lifters together, regardless of their level, is that we are all interested in getting to the next PR.”
On this episode, I interview Mike Tuchscherer, founder of Reactive Training Systems, and father of using ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ (RPE) based on ‘reps in reserve’ to modulate recovery with training. Mike has coached 12 people to world records, he is one of only five people to have ever totaled over 2100 lbs in the 260 lb in the IPF, and is something of a legend in the training community.
In this interview, you’ll hear the story of how Mike accidentally pulled a world record deadlift. You’ll learn how to use RPE in your training to help manage and progress better, and we also answer reader questions. Enjoy!
Reactive Training Systems – Mike’s coaching business
Free Applications – To monitor athlete training and recovery
Greg Nuckols’ kitchen sink analogy – On work capacity and recovery
RTS Basics – Great starting resources on RPE
“Fixing the ‘Tuck Under’ When I Squat” – Fixing butt wink / limited squat depth by Tony Gentilcore
Project Momentum – It’s for a training question we do not have an answer for
Where did lifting start for Mike? Mike started lifting when he was 12 years old. It all started with a weight lifting club that met once a month. In elementary school, Mike was a bigger kid. Weight lifting helped Mike to build confidence and slim down. In high school, Mike was on the football team and would break into the gym off-hours. Mike started benching 135lbs before high school. Mike achieved his current competition body weight of 260lbs around the start of college. [2:15]
Mike’s initial nutrition. Mike was eating everything in sight to gain weight. The fitness advice at the time was not exactly nutritionally sound. Since Mike was making these eating decisions when he was younger, so it worked out well for him. However, he would not take that approach at his current age. [7:45]
Mike on RPE. When Mike got into college, there was a powerlifting club. However, the two other members dropped out. Not wanting to lift alone, Mike went out and recruited a dozen members. Through coaching the club members, Mike learned a great deal about training techniques. Super Training was the book he started out with, which mentioned RPE. [9:30]
Mike re-evaluating rest. In 2013, Dr. Mike Zourdos was putting on a small local competition. In preparation for the competition, Mike felt a pop in his back during his deadlift warmup. Mike met Dr. Quinn Henoch, a physical therapist, who helped him with his back. Mike ended up being able to compete and set a PR in deadlifting. Mike attributes the time he rested to the ultimate success of that competition. “Tested” means drug-tested competitions. [13:45]
Mike talks about his international competitions. Mike and his team coached 12 IPF world record holders. The thing that ties all lifters together is that we are all interested in getting to the next PR. [20:15]
Mike’s secret sauce. The biggest thing that has lead to the success of Reactive Training Systems coaching is to pay attention. Although RPE is an important tool, it is not the only tool available. [24:00]
How can people gauge if they are getting beat up, objectively? Mike’s team has developed a few systems for monitoring training and recovery. These free applications are available on the Reactive Training Systems website. A component of this system is called “track” that asks several questions. Monitoring how you respond to these questions, you can better understand your recovery. Mike mentions Greg Nuckols’ kitchen sink analogy. Mike would add that humans are variable, where the size of the drain changes. [25:45]
Mike’s advice to people who do not want to leave a rep in the tank. Mike feels like the notion of RPE helped him move past the idea of always adding more weight. Using the target of RPE has helped keep Mike focused on progress without pushing it too hard. More resources are available on the RippedBody.com website. Mike suggest getting started on the RTS Basics. Ultimately, you need to practice the skill of RPE. [28:45]
Andy goes through an RPE troubleshooting example. Andy wonders how someone who wants to do 3 sets of 8 reps at 8 RPE, but on set 2 they only hit 7 reps at 10 RPE. Mike would first suggest reducing the weight on the bar. However, if the weight on the bar is to remain the same, Mike would suggest to work up to three additional sets. If the reps start to drop off, keep the load the same. [34:45]
How to warm up for secondary lifts? Mike usually would do one warm up set to feel the difference in the movement. [37:15]
Defining intensity. Intensity is always in reference to the load. In this case, 70% is low intensity compared to 85% of 1RM. However, effort is a better reference to RPE. [39:15]
Ass to grass vs. to parallel squats. Squat depth is determined by your goals or limitation. Andy suggests filming yourself from the side to assess your technique. Andy suggests Tony Gentilcore’s articles on “Fixing the ‘Tuck Under’ When I Squat”. Mike also mentions starting position and mobility problems affect squat depth. [41:15]
Is the app going mobile? Yes, but we want to wait to do it right. [44:00]
Would I kill myself attempting Project Momentum as a non-competing lifter? Project Momentum is for a training question we do not have an answer for. The past question, does the lifter’s max reps at 80% tell us anything about what type of program they will respond to? [45:45]
Failed squat attempts due to forward leaning. Mike addresses exercise problems from three levels. First, the use of competition exercises that are challenging. Next, the use of assistance exercises that give specific emphasis on competition exercises. Finally, supplemental exercises that train the muscles but not the specific movement pattern. [49:45]
Advice for novice trainees. Continue to pay attention to your training. Practice using RPE. Keep a training log. [51:45]
Thanks for listening! Andy and Mike
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