Repetitions, or reps, are the basic foundation blocks of any strength or muscle building program but it is something that many lifters overlook. How often do we see people at the gym make progress through their reps, breathe incorrectly — or fail altogether to complete every rep properly from a technical perspective?
There is much more to the basic rep than meets the eye.
The first thing to learn is that repetition has three elements – lower, pause and lift. The speed at which this is done relies on the desired outcome, but to maximize muscle growth a slow, controlled tempo is necessary.
The process should never be rushed at all, but instead should be controlled and smooth as possible.
The second thing to remember relates to how many reps required to be performed. Once again, this relies on what you hope to achieve but you can use the following as a basic rule of thumb:
- 1RM/single repetition maximum builds muscle strength.
- A 6 to 8 repetition maximum increases muscle size.
- A larger number of repetitions will have more effect on muscle endurance and minimal impact on strength or size.
Your aim, therefore, should be to complete 6-8 reps of a load equivalent to seventy-five to eighty percent of your single rep. This will maximize your muscle-building potential, given that you accomplish every lift with perfect form in a smooth and controlled manner.
Bear in mind that sticking to the correct exercise form, rather than taking shortcuts to lift heavier weights, will bring you greater results in the long-term.
One of the main hardships facing bodybuilders is how can they be certain that all muscle fibers have been used and exhausted during an exercise — and it is only by achieving this that muscle gains can be achieved.
The simple answer is this: you have work past your failure and go through a higher level of training intensity than you used to. This also guarantees that workouts remain challenging and continue to give progress over time, so it reduces the chances of regression.
But, how do you go about intensifying your training? Good thing there is a tried and tested approach to follow as detailed:
- Use partial reps – at the point of failure, you will not be able to accomplish the full range of movement for a given exercise. Doing a partial rep that involves only a segment of the lift will still work your muscles beyond the point of failure. This method is especially useful to advanced bodybuilders as it lets them to build intensity without adding extra routines that could cause overtraining.
- Introduce supersets – this means performing 2 exercises for the same muscle group without a rest interval; you have to use different muscle fibers that stimulate increased growth.
- Muscle exhaustion – when an exercise has 2 or more muscles, the weakest will stop you from working the primary muscle to failure. The answer is to first isolate and tire the primary muscle before immediately working on another exercise that works the set of muscles to failure.
- Decrease rest intervals – giving the muscles less time to recover before using them to further work has the effect of increasing intensity.
- Change the exercise – to achieve optimal gains, all muscle fibers in a body part must be trained. Altering the angle or introducing a new exercise will propel growth.
- Build resistance – increasing the weight lifted in meaningful increments guarantees the muscle is pushed beyond its previous point of failure thus remaining the muscle-building process. Aim to increase the weight when you reach 6-8 reps.