Strength Training Repetitions

Compensation for an Inadequate System, or the Only Way to Gain?

By Paul "Batman" O'Brien 

B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. IMed., Dip. Adv. OBB, Dip. CHM, Pn1, PN-SSR, PN-NCA, M.AFPA., M.C.Th.A.

Strength training repetitions according to some are “the foundation of any strength training program”. I say something very different. While strength training repetitions are a very necessary part of a conventional training program, they are in fact the primary indicator of an inefficient training plan, and poor understanding of exercise physiology. And for that statement I will catch a lot of flack because very few people would agree with it. 

In this article however I will give those news to the term some simplified answers to the common strength training repetition questions, discussing speed, the meaning of concentric and eccentric and its purpose in weight training. Then I will briefly explain why it’s like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

What is a strength training repetition?

Simply put it is moving a muscle through a full range of motion, from an elongated or stretched position to a contracted one and back again, this is then repeated a number of times, the number based on the program being followed. For instance basic recommendations for strength would be 3-5 reps, capillary growth would be 5-7 and a basic “toning” program is about 10-12 reps. Once all the repetitions prescribed are done, you have completed a “set”. Again depending on the program there may be a number of sets per exercise.

The technical terms for the elongation and contraction mentioned above and eccentric and concentric. Concentric means shortening. Eccentric means lengthening. Concentric movements occur when our muscles shorten. Using the bicep curl as our example, the concentric (shortening) phase happens when we lift the fist towards our shoulder. In order to shorten the angle of the elbow joint are bicep actually shortens.

Eccentric movements occur when our muscles lengthen. The eccentric (lengthening) phase happens when we lift the weight back to the starting position- down by our sides. This causes the bicep muscle to lengthen. Several studies claim that eccentric contraction causes more micro damage of the muscles and thus greater increases in strength and size.

Each phase of the movement has different cadences and rhythms. Some stress a fast concentric phase and slow eccentric, others an even version, and others still a fluctuating cadence. That’s all well and good and as I said in the introduction it’s a vital aspect of conventional weight lifting or callisthenic programs, but......

Why do we have Strength training repetitions in the first place?

What’s the purpose and what’s the point of including them? There are three primary reasons we use strength training repetitions in conventional training programs;

  1. As a method of regulating the weight – in order to determine the appropriate weight we should be lifting we aim to do between say 8-12 reps. If you can’t repeat the movement in good form at least 8 times then the weight is too heavy and you should lower it. If you can do more than 12 then increase it.
  2. As a method of regulating intensity in a workout. Increasing repetitions is a long standing way of making a workout harder. This is a result of progressive muscle fibre exhaustion and failure, leading me to point number three....
  3. Inducing muscular stimulation. This is my major problem with the concept and practice of strength training repetitions. Repetitions imply one important thing about the weight or resistance being lifted – it is sub maximal. Thus in order to effect stimulation of the muscular fibres once must repeatedly lift the weight, slowly exhausting the supply of energy in the muscle and tiring the fibres. This is why it progressively harder to lift the same weight.

The problem with this is that it is glaringly inefficient and a total waste of time, and can in fact lead to injury, joint and tendon damage. Even experienced lifters will acknowledge the growth and increase of muscle mass and strength is stimulated by that last straining rep, once you have exhausted your muscle fibres.

Instead of thinking about a way to achieve that same stimulation right off the bat, lifters instead have chosen to overlook the problem and simply spend their time “pre-exhausting” muscle fibres.

Of course there is a much better way – A single repetition. Maximal stimulation. Maximal growth in size and strength. A safer, more efficient way of training that can be performed anywhere. Find out more and check out the incredible results you can achieve using isometrics here – 7 Seconds to Build A Perfect Body!, my 7 week course using the Scientifically Proven Method for Transforming Your Body in Just Seconds! Over 250 pages and filled with more than 100 photos it will transform your body from your face down to your toes, sculpting your physique and letting you develop astonishing strength with just seconds of exercise.

All in just one rep. No time wasted. No possibility of injury. You may also want to check out the following articles where I discuss the concept of muscular intensity in more detail - Isometrics and Weight Lifting, and Isometrics Versus Traditional Lifting.

All in just one rep. No time wasted. No possibility of injury. You may also want to check out the following articles where I discuss the concept of muscular intensity in more detail - Isometrics and Weight Lifting, and Isometrics Versus Traditional Lifting.

You’ve been reading about strength training repetitions, check out the next isometric article, - here. 

Click Here to Return to the Home Page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.