What “Rep Strategy” is most effective in building muscle size, increasing strength and ramping up endurance?
By Marty Gallagher – World Master Powerlifting Champion
In addition to how many sets and reps you should perform for any given muscle during a single workout, people often ask, “What type of reps should I be performing?”. This is a loaded question as there are many to choose from that can be incorporated into barbell and dumbbell workouts.
Some examples of effective rep strategies include:
- Full Range Reps
- Partial Reps
- Forced Reps
- Negative Reps
- Low Reps
- High Reps
- Slow Reps
- Fast Reps
Essentially the question is, which of these “rep strategies” trumps all the others and which of these rep strategies is useless? I would suggest that this is the wrong perspective. All of these various types and kinds of rep techniques are tools in a toolbox. Does a hammer trump a screwdriver? Does a pipe wrench trump a saw? As the old adage goes, “the right tool for the right job.” This is the perfect analogy for the various rep types: we select the right rep strategy to elicit a specific physiological response. The right reps for the right job.
Looking to become maximally athletic and strong from every angle and posture? Full range-of-motion reps are the right tool for that job. Want to build tendons and ligament strength while making yourself more resistant to injury? An extended bout of heavy partial reps is recommended. Need a new approach to break through your current stagnation? Forced reps and drop sets are extremely effective. Want a complete change of pace? Experiment with negatives. Are you seeking to get dramatically stronger? 1-5 rep low rep sets are the preferred prescription. If hypertrophy and strength endurance are needed high rep sets will fill the bill. Fast reps are perfect for building explosive power, slow reps create grind speed torque.
The right rep tool for the right physiological job: you have to approach it backwards; start with the physiological goal – if the goal is clear enough and defined enough the appropriate rep strategy to select is the easy part. Have a goal, define the goal and always set training goals into a timeframe. A goal without a plan is a wish.
Make sure to check out Marty Gallagher’s latest books, Strong Medicine and The Purposeful Primitive, which are packed with a rich history of the sport of powerlifting and its founding fathers including proven, no-nonsense methods and “old school” knowledge for gaining strength, muscle and becoming leaner.