Nov 8, 2017
Understanding APRE, Part 3
Dr. Bryan Mann

In previous blogs, we covered the basics of APRE (find Part 1 here) and how to implement it (find Part 2 here).

With a thorough understanding of how to follow and program Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise (APRE), it can produce fantastic results. I first decided to try it with the field hockey and women’s soccer teams at Southwest Missouri State University while I was a Graduate Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach there.

After using the APRE 6 protocol on a whim, I was amazed by my athletes’ gains. Three weeks into the program, they were doing six to eight repetitions with their old 1RMs! If only one athlete had seen these results, I would have thought she was an outlier or taking a supplement that really worked for her. But since these benefits were seen across both teams, I was convinced that APRE was truly effective.

When I joined the University of Missouri performance staff in 2004, the football team needed to get stronger, and then-Director of Strength and Conditioning Pat Ivey, PhD, CSCS, SCCC, MCCC, USAW, asked us for suggestions. At that point, I had been using the APRE for several years and had it fairly refined, so we decided to give it a shot.

Our initial results with the football team were astounding. Over four sessions of training squats, with a fifth for testing, we saw an average increase of about 25 pounds per person. These were the results we published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2010.

I revisited this topic for my doctoral dissertation, using an expanded data set that also included bench press and hang clean measurements. It compared the outcomes of a five-week APRE training session to those of a traditional periodization model. Overall, we saw a 7.5 percent increase for the three lifts using APRE and a 1.8 percent decrease using traditional periodization. For squat specifically, numbers rose 8.8 percent with APRE versus an average decrease of 0.5 percent for traditional periodization. On the hang clean, loads increased 9.2 percent with APRE versus a 2.3 percent decrease for traditional periodization. And bench press results improved five percent with APRE versus a one percent decline for traditional periodization.

There are a few potential reasons why the APRE was so effective with the Missouri football team. For one, it accounted for the various stressors that the athletes encountered and the ways stress affected their bodies. When they had the capacity to allow for adaptation, they could make it. When the ability ran out, they no longer saw adaptation. Traditional periodization doesn’t allow for this — athletes can’t make greater gains if they have more reserves in a given session because the loads and volumes are prescribed in a pre-planned manner.

In addition, the athletes liked having control over their own results. They were able to see increases and decreases based off their effort. This elicited the desire for them to work harder so they could impact their own improvement.

Furthermore, it’s likely that the APRE works similarly to the concept of undulating periodization. When the body is constantly presented with different repetition schemes, it can’t adapt to just one. Essentially, this means that the athlete can gain strength for a longer period of time before they plateau.

Weightroom work does not need to be rocket science. In that respect, APRE is the essence of simplicity. Instead of worrying about what happened six to 12 weeks ago using periodization and 1RM testing, strength coaches can utilize the performance of the previous set or session with APRE to localize performance and maximize results.

Bryan Mann, PhD, CSCS, SCCC, is Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy, Director of Research for the Human Performance Institute, and Director of Applied Research for Strength and Conditioning at the University of Missouri.

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