Thursday, April 8, 2010

Forced Reps – To do, or not to do?

You’re pounding out an intense set of bench presses and you’re just about at your limit. You want to pack on as much mass as possible and nothing is going to stand in your way. You’re not about to stop the set so you grunt to your partner, “two more” because you know those extra two forced reps with help are what separates the men from the boys and will ignite crazy new muscle growth, right? Wrong!

Upon first glance forced reps may seem like a good idea. I mean forced reps allow you to get more reps with more weight….or do they?

If you really think about what a forced rep is, you’ll realize it is a rep with less total overload. There is less overload because your partner is assisting with the lift thus making the load lighter. For all intents and purposes finishing your set with one or two forced reps is like ending with lighter weight. This is not ideal because less overload equals less muscle growth stimulation.

Also, forced reps prematurely fatigue your muscles because you end up doing one or two reps beyond positive failure (which is the point at where you can’t complete any more reps on your own) with a lighter weight. Muscle fatigue decreases the amount of overload or weight you can use on your remaining sets and is another reason forced reps should be avoided.

Here’s another thing to consider. If you are getting help on the last rep, it makes it harder to know when to increase weights because you are not truly getting those reps on your own. If you are getting 6 reps with no help at all you know it is time to increase weight, no questions asked. Stopping at positive failure will give you a much more accurate gauge of strength increases.

I trained with forced reps for many years before finding Max-OT. After I adopted the Max-OT principles I admit it was a hard habit to break. Stopping at positive failure was something I had to learn and a skill it took me a few years to refine.

My best advice on this subject is get in the habit of stopping at positive failure with at most taking a little help to complete the final rep of a set and no more.

Believe. Achieve.

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