Many of those involved in weight training programs simply press the weight from its resting position to full extension and then release back to the beginning. This is considered one repetition, and although much thought and effort may be applied to increasing weight and increasing intensity, variances to rep styles is often overlooked. However, varying the way you do repetitions can increase your weightlifting results even further, giving you the most out of your workout routine.
As you will see, there is much more to completing a repetition that provides effective results than merely lifting weights up and back down. Of course, weightlifting technique is a major part of effectively gaining muscle mass. Keeping precise form during the rep allows for more muscle engagement and proper repetition performance is vital in this endeavor. A common error and eventual habit that many weightlifters make is completing repetitions without thought. By not focusing on both the positive (lifting) and negative (releasing) aspects of a repetition, they become sloppy with momentum, which can affect muscle building. Therefore, concentration on the rep and learning to perform reps in various ways will increase the effectiveness of your technique and maximize muscle building results.
Various Rep Styles
The following are several variations of repetition styles that can be used to add different amounts of stress on your muscles. It’s well known that you have to constantly change things up in order to avoid muscle growth plateaus. Although this can be achieved by utilizing various weights, different exercises, circuit training, etc., it can also be achieved by altering the repetitions of your workout routine. Varying your reps provides another key element for keeping your muscles guessing and growing.
Up Explosively and Down Slowly – Exploding the weight upward on the concentric movement is usually recommended for building strength. Then, a slow and controlled lowering of the weight allows you to gain greater benefit from the negative, or eccentric, movement. This is by far one of the most popular rep methods used by athletic lifters who want to develop explosive weightlifting power for competition.
Slow Up, Pause and Squeeze, Slow Down – This is another popular rep style used on exercises that allow you to reach tension and full range of motion at the zenith of your lift, such as leg extensions. This rep style is performed by lifting the weight slowly and in a controlled method until you reach your complete range of motion. At this point, you pause and squeeze your muscles together before lowering the weight, again in a slow and controlled motion. The pause at the peak of the lift can be held for as long as you desire before slowly lowering the weight. This static hold keeps maximum stress on the muscles during that extended period, making them work harder. Also, by performing static holds once you reach full range of motion, you increase strength in the muscle at its maximum extension, causing even further muscle growth and strength.
Controlled Piston Lift (without Pause) – During this rep style, you control the lift on a smooth upward motion followed by a smooth downward motion without any pause at the peak of the lift. Control through the lift is emphasized so that the muscles are doing the work and not momentum.
Partial Range – This rep style is performed by not allowing the weight load to reach full range of motion at either the top or bottom of the lift. You complete your reps without locking out at the top or allowing the weight to reach full rest at the bottom. This style of weightlifting repetition is supposed to be much easier on the joints and is used by many of the top pros.
10-Count Reps –When performing this style of weightlifting repetition, you lift very slowly while counting to 10 at which point you should be at peak. Then repeat the 10-count on the eccentric portion of the lift until it has been lowered at number 10.
Challenging Repetition Change-Ups – Once you master the above rep styles, you can move on to methods which increase the difficulty of the rep and add more intensity. Again, the more stress you place on the muscles and the more often you change up your workout routine, the more you will spur on muscle growth.
Partial Reps – Also called burns, this technique employs doing very short reps at the point of your set when you can no longer complete a full repetition. This rep style is quite effective on muscle growth even if you can only move the weight an inch or two during the partial reps.
Static Holds – This rep style was mentioned under the “Pause and Squeeze” technique above. However, a static hold can be performed at any point throughout the rep where you want to pause and apply extra stress on the muscle groups involved in the lift. Just be sure to keep the point of your static hold consistent throughout the set.
Focus on the Eccentric – The lowering or releasing of the weight is considered to be the eccentric, or negative, portion of the lift. Focusing on this area of strength training provides a great deal of muscle building benefit as you apply muscle resistance on the downward motion of the lift as well. Try utilizing weight that is approximately 20% heavier than normal and do them at the end of your normal sets to increase the intensity of your weight training program.
Two of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite rep styles were:
1 ½ reps – Simply complete a full rep and then a half rep, which together, count as a complete rep.
21’s – Used mainly for upper body development, 21’s consist of completing 7 half repetitions from the resting point to the midway point, then completing 7 reps from the midway point to the peak, and then completing 7 full reps from rest to peak.