The APRE Protocols: Programs for All Seasons

Note from Tim


I am a big believer in programming out workouts with specific weight and rep guidelines – and unless you are involved in one on one training that is often the best way to go.  But lifters don’t always feel the same every day – some times you are ready to smash the weight, on other days you might just be happy to hit your minimum rep goal.  Autoregulation is a great way to plan out the program but still lift by feel based on how you are performing that day.  For this article we welcome guest poster Jack Niles who lives and breathes sports and resides in Farmville, VA. He has outlined how to use APRE in this article and provided a workout program to go along with it.


A beginner gets stronger just by lifting. Any program works for a beginner. An intermediate powerlifter needs strength specific programming to get stronger. An advanced lifter with many years of competitive experience, lifting very heavy weights, needs to program recovery into his work outs. The beauty of the APRE (Auto-regulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise) programs is that all categories of lifters from novices to experts can benefit with this type of program. Each exercise is done for four sets once a week. The third and the fourth sets are done to failure. The number of repetitions done on the third set determines both the weight used in the fourth set and the weight to be used the following week. The way the APRE programs work if you are weaker one week the starting weight for the next week would be lower and if you will be able to recover. If you are stronger one week your weights will increase next week to adjust to your strength gains.


Auto-regulation is great because it works, the proof is in the pudding

There are three APRE programs: one for absolute strength development, one for hypertrophy, and one for speed strength development.

Here is how the strength program works:

Set 1 is 6 repetitions of 50% of your 3 repetition max.

Set 2 is 3 repetitions of 75% of the 3RM

Set 3 is 100% of the 3RM to failure

If on set 3 you can only do 1-2 reps decrease the 3RM  5-10 lbs for set 4..

If on set 3 you do 3-4 reps leave the weight the same for set 4.

If on set 3 you can do 5 or more reps then increase the weight 5-15 lbs.

Do set 4 to failure with the newly adjusted weight.

The newly adjusted weight is the new 3RM for the next week’s sets.

I have included a spreadsheet for each of the three APRE programs (Download Here). If you have a smart phone and an app like “DOCUMENTS TO GO,” you can download the spreadsheet your phone and take with you to the gym.

We know as lifters that muscular hypertrophy leads to longer lasting strength gains. We also know that greater bar speed equals greater power output for a given weight. The three APRE programs can be woven together in different ways to increase strength , speed strength, and muscular hypertrophy. A simple 8 week cycle might include 4 weeks of the APRE hypertrophy program followed by 4 weeks of the APRE powerlifting program, a twelve week cycle could include 6 weeks of each program.  Olympic lifters can use the APRE 6 program substituting the “snatch,” and the “clean and jerk,” for the bench and deadlift.  Squats should be left in the APRE 6 program because squats are an extremely useful assistance exercise for Olympic lifters.

Here is a general outline of how to use the APRE programs in a simple 3 day a week lifting schedule. Perform each of the three major exercises (squats, bench and deadlifts,) each on an individual day. For instance Monday use the APRE squat regimen followed by leg assistance lifts. Wednesday use the APRE protocol for benching followed by upper body assistance lifts. Saturday use the APRE deadlift program followed by back assistance exercises.

Warms up lifting before using the APRE protocols should be simple.

2 sets of the bar only for ten reps

5 reps at 40 %

4 reps at 50 %

3 reps at 60%

2 reps at 70 %

1 rep at 80%.

The last two sets of each APRE protocol are done to failure so recovery time is paramount. One protocol per day is sufficient. The brevity of the APRE programs make the APRE programs a very time efficient method to rapidly build strength, and are backed by a ton of research.

Mike Mentzer, a huge proponent of intensity over frequency for both strength and hypertrophy.

Mike Mentzer, a huge proponent of intensity over frequency for both strength and hypertrophy.

When using the APRE spreadsheets each of the three respective maximums are calculated for you the first week. For example the sheet will calculate for you a theoretical 3 rep max for the powerlifting program based on a weight you recently have lifted. Do not worry if this weight seems too heavy or too light, the program is self -adjusting. The second week put the weight you used for your fourth set into the same blank and the program will calculate your workout for you. From then on you can put the 4 th set values into the same blank. The program will only calculate your theoretical 3 rep max for the first week.  I hope you enjoy using the APRE protocols as much as I have. For further reading I suggest the two excellent books below.

Give it a try and let us know how it works out for you in the comments.


  1. Mann, Bryan “The APRE, The Scientifically Proven Fastest Way to Get Strong,” 2011
  2. Verkhoshansky, Yuri, Siff, Mel “SuperTraining 6th Edition”  Rome, Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2009
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12 thoughts on “The APRE Protocols: Programs for All Seasons

  1. Bryan

    What protocols or limits do you suggest for the use of accessory work? I already have Bryan Mann’s APRE paper as well as his velocity paper.

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