Rep Tempo: Lay the Foundation for Great Workouts
What Is Rep Tempo?
A rep is a unit of work performed over time. A set consists of three repetitions or sets. There are two types of reps: 1) full repetition (1RM), 2) partial repetition (3 RM). For example, if you perform 10 reps with 100 lbs., then you have completed one set; however, if you perform 5 reps with 50 lbs. and 15 reps with 75 lbs., then you have completed two sets.
The purpose of using a rep range is to ensure that your body maintains its ability to produce maximum results during all phases of training. Rep ranges allow us to train at different intensities while still maintaining proper form and technique. By varying the intensity of our workouts, we can vary the stimulus for growth.
Why Use Rep Tempo?
As mentioned above, there are two types of reps: 1) full repetition (1RM), and 2) partial repetition (3 RM). Using a rep range allows us to train at different intensities while still maintaining proper form and technique. When performing a workout, it is very common for most people to use the same number of reps each day. However, some individuals prefer to do more than their prescribed amount of work per session. Using a rep range will help you accomplish more work in a given time frame.
How Does Rep Tempo Help With Building Muscle?
Rep tempo helps build muscle mass for several reasons. One of the most important reasons is that it allows for an increased amount of volume and training without compromising technique or form. This is especially important when building muscle mass, as form and technique are critical for safety purposes.
A second reason is that it helps increase the mind-muscle connection. A common mistake by many lifters when performing an exercise is to move the weight rather than moving the muscle. By drawing out the eccentric and concentric portions of a movement, you are able to target specific muscles and contract them to better draw blood into the area. The increased blood supply to a specific muscle will help increase its size.
For an example, I will use the deadlift. The eccentric portion of the deadlift begins when you hinge over to pick up the weight off the ground. The lowering or eccentric phase is where most people fail on a deadlift. By lowering the weight slowly, you are able to control your movement and protect your lower back.
The concentric portion of a deadlift begins when you pull yourself up off the floor and stand fully erect with the bar in hand. The concentric portion is the easiest part of the movement, however, it is also where most people fail.
By extending your arms all at once you are able to complete the movement rather than using a controlled lifting phase. By controlling your movement through the eccentric and concentric portions, you are able to target your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back to a greater degree. This will result in greater gains in strength and size over time.
By using these two types of reps, you are ensuring that all of your muscles are being trained properly and thoroughly.
An important thing to remember is that paritla training should not be used for all exercises. Exercises such as the flat bench press and parallel bar dips are better suited to a 1 to 4 ratio. In other words, it is better to perform 1 full repetition than 4 partial repetitions.
With all of these benefits, there are still some exercises that arn’t conducive to this type of training. Isolation movements such as the cable cross over and tricep pushdowns can be very dangerous if the movement is drawn out. These exercises should be performed quickly and in a controlled manner.
Performing full repetitions of these exercises will put increased stress on the elbow and shoulders, areas that are already prone to injury with that type of movement. There is no need to risk injury and by controlling the concentric and eccentric motion, you can still target the muscles effectively.
So What Is The Best Rep Range For Muscle Building?
The best rep range for muscle building is 8 to 15 reps per set. Anymore than 15 reps and you lose the ability to place emphasis on a specific muscle and placing the stress on a larger variety of muscles. Any less than 8 reps and you are not fully stimulating the muscle.
There is also the issue of time, in that you need to take at least 1 to 2 minutes rest between sets. A set of 15 repetitions can take up to 90 seconds to complete. If you are doing 3 sets of an exercise that would take up to 180 seconds of rest. Add that on to the time it takes to walk the weights from the stack back to the weight rack and you are looking at nearly 4 minutes between sets.
By keeping your sets in the 8 to 15 repetition range, you are able to decrease the amount of time between sets significantly and keep your heart rate elevated. This keeps your heart healthier and allows you to place more stress on your muscles.
The next question is what weight and rep range should you start with. While this may differ from person to person, in general if you are a beginner you will want to start in the lower to middle of the recommended rep range for your first 1 to 2 years. This should allow you to get a solid foundation of strength before moving on to more difficult exercises and heavier weights. Once you have mastered 2 years of proper training you will have a good idea of what weight you should begin with.
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