repetitions are assisted movement by a training partner, or spotter.
They are typically performed with heavy weight or near the end
of a set at the onset of failure.
Like other similar advanced-training methods, forced repetitions
may lead to overtraining
if overused or implemented for an extended period of time. Forced
repetitions may bring about short-term progress, but more sustained
progress can be achieved with small, systematic increases of
repetitions and resistance (i.e. increase weight 5-10% when 12
reps have been achieved). Our bodies generally adapt well to
small progressive increases of intensity and duration. The intensity
put forth on forced reps is difficult to regulate in a progressive
fashion and may, consequently, hamper long-term progress. Long-term
progress comes from coaxing progress with subtle intervals of
varied incremental overload rather than attempting to force progress.
More experienced trainees often utilize more sustainable techniques
such as periodization, light/heavy
workouts, and periodic exercise
changes to break sticking points. See adaptation
You will not see top level powerlifters and Olympic Weightlifters
performing forced reps. In fact, high level strength and power
athletes attempt to avoid training to failure. Instead, they
systematically vary their workloads and typically know exactly
how many reps they will be performing on each set. However, many
people in the gyms still continue to use this technique despite
more effective protocols for long term progress.
In the 80's, Dr. Franco Columbo wrote an article condemning
the use of forced reps. Franco Columbo, former Mr. Olympia, was
once considered the world's strongest bodybuilder. In the article,
he suggested overuse of forced repetitions with very heavy weight
may essentially teach the muscles to prematurely fail. Strength
training involves a neurological adaptation (motor development,
contraction efficiency), as well as a morphological adaptation
(muscle growth). Repeated use of forced repetitions with very
heavy weight has been thought to prematurely activate the Golgi tendon organ.
It has been proposed that activation of the Golgi tendon organ
inhibits muscular contraction to protect the muscle from perceived
injury. See Tony Shield's rebuttal.
Prolonged abstinence from forced repetitions appears to increase
the potential for the exerciser to complete the very difficult
last repetition, possibly in effect, reteaching the body to succeed
rather than fail during the final challenging rep. If forced
reps are to be performed, it is suggested to reserve their use
to only once a month before changing
exercises, or at the end of a meso-cycle.
Also see Asking
for a Spot and Cheating.
The exerciser slowly lowers a very heavy resistance through
phase of an exercise. Although, not considered a negative,
a training partner assists the exerciser through the concentric
phase of an exercise (See Forced
Reps above) so the exerciser can complete additional negatives.
The exerciser can lower (requiring eccentric contraction) approximately
20% greater load than they would be able to lift (requiring concentric
contraction). Negatives are commonly used with submaximal repetitions
near the end of a set after exhaustion and immediately following
attention to strict biomechanical form is highly recommended
when performing exercises. This is particularly true when a trainee,
not familiar with a new movement, is learning proper technique
(see Skill Acquisition and
Proficiency). Cheating involves compromised form, implementing
unintended momentum, altered alignment,
or angle of pull
in effort at specific points of the exercise in effort to complete
Cheating may increase the risk of injury, since it exposes
the bodily structures to forces to which they are not accustomed.
Interestingly, someone who consistently performs an exercise
in a manner that would be considered cheating (yet abiding by
the 4 Adaptation
Criteria), theoretically, would have less risk of injury
compared to someone who cheated in the same manner, but inconsistently.
So it is the inconsistent nature of cheating, or lack of adaptation,
that presents a much greater risk than the actual movement and
resulting bodily forces. Also see Specific
Adaptation and Dangerous
Trainees may choose to employ slight cheating techniques for
the last repetition or two of a set. It has been suggested that
very advanced trainees use cheating to increase training intensity,
whereas most other trainees use cheating as a means to decrease
training intensity. Cheating should be considered an advanced
training technique with inherent risks. Other safer and possibly
more effective training techniques should be considered.
Isometric exercise involves contraction against an immovable
resistance. Strength is increased at the specific angle of exertion
with up to 20% overflow surrounding joint angles. At other joint
angles, there is no corresponding increase in strength. The use
of isometric exercises is widely practiced in injury rehabilitation
or reconditioning. Isometric training is typically implemented
when full range of motion exercises may otherwise exacerbate
a condition or ailment if introduced too early in the rehab process.
Isometrics are also used by powerlifters to break sticking points,
a specific angle in the range of motion at which smooth movement
is difficult because of insufficient strength. They may use an
isometric contraction against an immovable resistance to increase
strength at this sticking point, so that a smooth, coordinated
lift can ultimately be performed through a full range of motion.
Also see Isometric
Super slow training involves performing repetitions in a very
slow controlled manner. This longer tension times enhance continuous
tension muscular endurance. Studies that demonstrated enhanced
muscle mass gains have been criticized for faulty methodology
(Fleck and Kramer, 2004). Like other training techniques, altering
training speed may re-stimulate progress by introducing variation
if training goals are closed to this type of sustained muscular
endurance in those particular muscle group exercises by this
means (See Variation
Deviation). Performing exercises slowly can impair
power development. This technique may be useful for individuals
susceptible to an injury (i.e.: osteoporosis, past injury) and
cleared to exercise by a physician.
involves emphasizing the development, strength, power, or other
specific fitness component
of a particular muscle group or movement. Prioritizing may be
implemented in effort to overcome a weakness or just to emphasize
a particular movement/motor skill to reach a specific goal. Prioritization
techniques may include:
- Programming exercise(s) that emphasize the desired muscle
group or movement/motor skill closer to the beginning of the
- Greater intensity can be expended on exercises in the beginning
of workout when the body is not as fatigued
- Programming exercise(s) that emphasize the desired muscle
group or movement/motor skill on first workout after rest day.
- Greater intensity can be expended on a workout that follows
a rest day.
- Performing additional exercise(s) for the target muscle group
or movement/motor skill.
- Implementing other advanced techniques to the exercise(s)
that involve the specific muscle group or movement/motor skill
Intermediate to advanced trainees may implement prioritization
techniques. Beginners should wait until they have developed a
base level of fitness and have learned which muscle groups or
movement/motor skills have not responded as favorably to a balanced
The Conjugate System involves frequent cycling of a large
variety of exercises and/or exercise variations. It is suited
for advanced athletes whose sport require general preparedness
(eg: Martial Arts, Wrestling, Strong Man Competitions, etc).
The Westside Barbell Program
is probably the most popular conjugate strength training system.
The program calls for changing exercises or variations every
3 weeks. In contrast, elite powerlifters are urged to change
exercises or variations every week. Variation can be as simple
as varying an exercise's range of motion, grip, or stance. However,
switching to a different exercise is generally more effective
than switching to a variation of the same exercise.
The Conjugate System allows the advanced athlete to avoid
and boredom. Altering exercises circumvents exercise staleness
at any level (See Restimulating Progress
by Changing Exercises). However, altering them frequently
can elicit other benefits for the advanced trainee.
Choosing from a large number of exercises and switching them
frequently allows the body to be taxed in a variety of ways within
a shorter period of time. This includes varying muscles emphasized,
fluctuating loads, and altering resistance curves. Cycling exercises
allow movement patterns to be varied that may otherwise be over
or undertrained on program involving a limited pool of exercises.
It also allows adaptation to occur more uniformly and synergistically.
The progress brought about from a newly added movement can carry
over to related exercises performed in subsequent workouts, each
cascading benefit to the following set of exercises. Dropping
an exercise for another can assist in restoration and make training
Keep in mind that changing exercises too often may not allow
for adequate adaptation to transpire, particularly for someone
with less than several years of training experience. Also, keeping
track exercise progress and looking up the resistance and number
of reps performed for every exercise and variation can be quite
daunting with so many exercises to monitor. Performing exercises
so infrequently also make it difficult to make instill systematic
increases or variations in resistance (eg: increase weight 2.5-5%
if upper rep range has been achieved). The last known load for
a particular exercise is more likely to be inaccurate, the more
time that has passed since it was last performed. By the time
a new load has been re-identified, another exercise takes its
place! See Shorthand Weight Training
Log Implementing Varying Workloads.
Periodization is the practice of varying training stimuli
to enhance long-term fitness and performance gains. For advanced
trainees, periodization is more effective than training at a
fixed intensity and duration (Bompa 1990). See Periodization
Examples. In contrast, beginners appear to achieve greater
progress in a program with a simple linear, progressive resistance
program (Hoffman 2003). Also see Variation.
Traditional periodization programs varied intensity and volumes
between mesocycles. More modern periodization programs implement
variations between microcycles (daily undulating periodized programs)
as well, and appear to be more effective (Rhea 2002).
Light Heavy Training
Light/heavy training incorporates variation of alternating
workout intensities, or workloads. See Light/Heavy
Weight Training and Low
Volume Light Heavy Workout Template. Intermediate to advanced
trainees appear to make greater progress on light/heavy workouts
as compared to workouts with a single repetition range. One study
found older adults who performed light/heavy workouts experienced
less discomfort between workouts and achieved similar training
result than those older adults who did not perform light/heavy
workouts (Hunter 2001).
Overreaching and Tapering
Overtraining and Fitness