‘Sets and Reps’ are intrinsically woven into the fabric of bodybuilding and are arguably one of the very first things we learn in the gym. Although by definition fixing the amount of repetitions we perform can actually act as a hindrance as well as an inspirational target.
Let me explain – one of my ‘bug bears’ in the gym is when you see enthusiastic trainers walking around with one of those gym cards a well meaning instructor has provided with a list of exercises, sets and reps they have to undertake. Upon doing so, the person simply ticks a box in recognition of completing the task. Problem is though, the development of the body is anything but ‘fixed’ so we’re potentially in danger of placing limitations on each and every working set – this should ring alarm bells!
Now if we have a set goal in mind prior to a working set and truly focus upon that goal, we are more than likely to achieve it, but what if you could go on and perhaps manage an extra 2-3 reps? This question challenges us to view ‘training to failure’ in a new and more helpful light. I have no doubts that the vast majority of you reading this do indeed train to failure, that’s not in question but training to failure on each working set is something you have to be incredibly pro-active about.
We can all very easily (and often sub-consciously) complete our sets once the desired amount of reps have been achieved instead of when the muscles can no longer handle the strain. This is the wrong approach for optimum muscle overload, the sets leading up to our heaviest lifts are the ones most likely to have limits/constraints placed upon them.
If we are fully warmed up then doesn’t it stand to reason that every rep of every set should have the sole purpose of taking the working muscles to failure? Or should we back off on these sets so we can glorify ourselves with a bigger weight on our heaviest lift? Are we really that vein? Or is the ‘bigger picture’ so much more important? Fact is we break a lot more muscle down when ‘dealing with failure’ over 4 sets than we do over 1!
Reps essentially fit into three very general categories with 3 different objectives – we should consider doing a selection of all 3 in our workouts:
Strength – 1 to 5 reps.
Hypertrophy – 6-12 reps.
Endurance – 12 reps+
This doesn’t mean however we should have a fixed number in our heads in our approach to each set.
When you’re not focusing on counting reps you’re focusing more on the working muscles, technique and of course muscle overload. But this can be tricky as counting reps has no doubt become integral to your training.
Use this tip several times in each workout and start reaping the benefits immediately:
I suggest starting off your set with several totally random numbers, 7, 11, 3, 9, 1 etc you’ll soon lose track of your reps and begin to focus on the exercises prime objective – to take the muscles to failure and beyond!
How many reps will you have done? Who knows, but more importantly you’ll be rest assured that each rep has served its primary purpose. This will inevitably breakdown more muscle and therefore creating a greater platform for growth! You will begin to develop the crucial ‘mind – muscle’ connection as you focus on the ‘feel’ of each and every rep without compromise.
So, what are you waiting for? Start forgetting!