Every fitness magazines, blog and book promises that their training method or program that will lead to, Faster Fat-loss, Bigger Biceps, A Flat Stomach, Toned Arms in 10 Days, Sculpted Legs, Better Sex and a host of other desired, over-exaggerated and embellished benefits of exercise.
It’s amusing to read the some of the reasons given by the author as to why and how their program will succeed where others have failed, especially when the program has no scientific backing or logical basis. But heaven help us if there is some celebrity or athlete who endorses the program! Then the program must be legit!
Without fail these routines typically...fail. Aside from the most obvious reason that no routine or specific formula can address or make up for the various intrinsic and extrinsic factors of all individuals, the second common reason why they fail is because they never address how the exercises should be performed. This “oversight” is most common with weight training or any type of resistance training programs. Specifically, they give no detailed instruction on repetition performance other than a few generic recommendations like, “Lift the weight under control. Don’t cheat.” or “Move slowly.”
It is impossible to provide anyone with a training routine or to follow a routine that is certain to produce the desired result unless you are assured that the exercises will be performed properly or in the manner intended. Although the repetition is the most fundamental element of weight training it is also the most overlooked, under-appreciated, and misapplied. This should come as no surprise. Consider how many of us have stepped into a gym for the first time and carefully thought out exactly how we will perform our very first repetition. It would not be a long shot to say none of us, unless the first visit was with a very mindful and detail oriented personal trainer. Unfortunately many bad habits are established within those first few months or years of training which for many will never be reversed.
Whether new to exercise or a seasoned veteran, it serves one well to be very clear about the purpose each repetition serves. It should not be as simple as moving the weight from point A to point B—that’s a simpletons approach. In the simplest way I can explain, the purpose of each repetition is to maximize muscular tension and place the greatest amount of strain on muscles possible while minimizing the strain placed on the joints and tendons. This is best accomplished by moving at a tempo slow enough to keep momentum from becoming a contributing factor in the completion of each repetition and being able to feel the muscles at each point of the range of motion.
Fast repetitions (i.e. 0.5-2 seconds to lift the weight, 0.5-2 seconds to lower it) utilize momentum to carry out a better part of each repetition whereas repetitions performed slowly (i.e. 4-6 seconds to lift the weight, 4-6 seconds to lower it) must rely on the force generated by the muscles in order to complete each rep. Moving slow makes performing the exercise harder and as we know, the harder or more demanding an exercise is the greater the likelihood of it stimulating an improvement in you physical condition or development.
Effective weight training begins and ends with the repetition. It is the foundation from which every set of every workout is built, and will be a determining factor in any programs success. Address the rep and everything else will begin to fall into place.