Often in our bodybuilding workouts, as in life we take things for granted. A rep is one of those things. We talk in the gym and assume that we’re going to do high reps to grow and low reps for strength or high reps for fat loss and low reps for muscle. As you can see from my previous sentence, various theories about rep exist.
The fitness industry is very quick to adapt dogma and very few ideas are more popular then the whole “three sets of ten” scheme for training. Bodybuilders did it, mgazines talked about it and we embraced it, that’s how viscious cycles start. Let’s look at some of the best way to maximize our reps in our bodybuilding workouts
1) Time under tension
While most of use have a skewed opinion of “tension” when it comes to bodybuilding, time under tension is a extremely important method that very few recognize. Initially thought of as a mway to maxmize the eccentric portion of the training, you’d have an athlete count three seconds on the way down of a chest press, time under tension and tempo have taken on different meanings. Few people not familiar with the strength coaching industry realize that tempo was first used so that coaches could write a workout for a athlete and any other coach or trainer who that athlete might see in-season would be able to understand how they performed the movement.
Bodybuilders got a hold of it and it became something that we had to do or else we wouldn’t grow. Tempo is a way to smack someone who just drops the weight on their chest and say “control the movement”. That’s all it is unless you are using specific methods where you really want to cause lactic acid accmulation and eccentricly load a muscle. That’s not how you should train all the time however.
2) Aim for maximum load each set.
This doesn’t mean that you need to go to failure nor does it mean that you should train with one or two reps every workout. How do you lose fat? You build muscle right? That’s all a rep is, you’re recruiting or working the muscle that you choose with the exercise. Most people need to train to failure since very few people truly go all out in the gym. This is why the rest-pause method of training is so popular online.You’re using maximum load and recruiting as much muscle as possible. The idea of training failure is flawed since most weight used is too light and you reach fatigue before you can full recruit the muscles you’re working. So when I say to “aim for maximum load each set”, I’m referring to using rep bracket and weight that will allow for maximum intensity.
3) The number of reps is the variable that is adapted to the quickest.
When you hear that you should change your workout every 4-6 weeks, what you’re really being told is that you need to change your reps. Depending on how long you’ve trained, how physically developed you are and your coordination of each movement, you’ll adapt to a given rep range quicker. Personally, It takes me about 6-8 weeks before I stop feelings and seeing results from single leg split squats. I haven’t done them often since my ankles are bad from basketball so when I do them I’m falling everywhere. It takes awhile for me to be coordinated with the movement then retrain my central nervous system to be efficient at the pattern.
So let’s put this together. First, make sure that you’re controlling the eccentric portion of the movement and make sure that each rep you’re using is challenging to the point that the last rep can’t be accomplished or is difficult and lastly, don’t stay on a program for too long when you stop feeling and seeing results from the exercise.