Want to kick up your training or to bust through a nasty plateau? If so, a training method can help. There are countless training methods to choose from, but one stands alone as the most-used and abused training method. Instead of getting better, too many people burn out and get stuck and stay where they don’t want to be. Are you making you overusing or misusing this method? It’s time to find out.
The most abused and overused training method is forced reps
Note: this is also referred to as partner-assisted reps
The idea behind the method is a good one – at the end of a set, your spotter assists you with doing a few extra reps that you normally can’t do on your own (I know you know that, but just so we are all on the same page). So far this sounds reasonable, but too many people run into these problems:
Problems with Forced Reps
You have a better chance of winning the lottery than you finding someone at your typical gym who knows how to spot. Instead of spotting with their eyes, they help with their hands. Bad spotters will have their hands on the bar the whole time. Even if they are not lifting the weight, they make the exercise easier by helping stabilize the weight. Then, as soon as the lifter starts to strain the spotter jumps in and helps too much, too early. Here is an example:
Having a spotter there to bail you out when the going gets tough can be a mental crutch and make you dependent on the spotter. You give in and let the spotter help instead of pushing through and getting the weight up.
You can’t track your performance
When you have a spotter helping, you have no idea how much they are helping. This makes it difficult to know if you are progressing or if your spotter is just helping out more. This problem is even worse if the spotter has his/her hands on the bar for the whole set.
Done correctly, this method is very demanding as you are technically training beyond failure. In an effort to work hard (which is a fantastic thing), many people over-use forced reps. They do them for way too many sets in a workout and do them way too often. While this may seem hard core, it is recipe for burnout and stagnant progress.
A better way
- Instruct your spotter to stay hands off until the bar stops moving. Note: often the bar may slow down, but you can push through the sticking point. For these last few reps, your spotter should be very ready to help you out but hold off from jumping in too quick. This is a great time for the spotter to encourage you, not do the work for you.
- When you barely make the last rep you can make with good form, Have your spotter assist just enough to keep the bar moving – the less help the better.
- If you make a mistake and try a rep you can’t do, have your partner jump when the bar stops. Note: the bar make slow down and there may be a sticking spot that you can push through. The spotter should stand by and not allow bar to start moving down (this is very psychologically defeating).
- At the top of the lift, have the spotter let go while you lower the bar under control. You will be 10-40% stronger on the eccentric (lowering phase) so you should be okay without the spotter.
- At the bottom, have the spotter assist you with another rep.
- If your spotter is diligent in not over-helping (i.e. lifting the weight for you), then you should only get 1-3 reps in this manner. If you are getting more, your spotter needs to back off. If you can get 10 reps like this, you need a new spotter.
- Training in this manner is very exhausting. Remember you are going beyond failure. While this can be a great way to spark progress and can also be a good way to over-do and get you burned out or hurt.
- Use your training log to track the reps you did on your own (these are the important ones that need to be moving up) and then make a note of the ones that you had help on.
- Example: 8/200 + 2 FR (FR = forced reps)
- Pick 1-2 lifts per session to use forced reps on and only use this for the last set.
- After 3-6 weeks, go back to normal training. Normal training is basic, hard training where you do all the reps on your own without missing a rep.
- If you like forced reps and find them effective, resist the temptation to use them too often. Instead use other training methods when you want to kick things up a notch.
- Consider what life as a whole is like. Avoid using this or any other intense training method during busy periods when recovery is not optimal. During these periods of life, hunker down and make small but steady strength gains.
Related: Coaxing Your Weights Up to Big Gains
Forced reps like many other training methods can be effective. However, to get the best results, use an intense training method such as forced reps properly and sparingly. Happy training!
How about you? Have you used forced reps? How did they go for you? I invite you to leave your questions and comments below or on my Facebook page.