What are Forced Reps, and Should you Be Using Them?
Weight training is one of the most diverse forms of exercise in the world. There are more set styles, set variations, exercise types, workout plans and everything in between than people even imagine. As a result of that, it’s only natural that some are better than others. One of the most misunderstood in all of these, however, is forced reps.
Forced reps are often thought to be one of the best ways to push yourself past your physical and your mental limits to get the best workout that you possibly can. In actuality, that might actually not be the case. There are arguments for both sides of this black sheep of weight training, and we just need to know what they are.
Let’s explore it.
What Are Forced Reps
Let's start at the top. Looking at what forced reps actually are is always going to be a great starting point. The idea behind forced reps is to lift more weight than you usually can do.
Generally speaking, when you’re weight training, the idea is to lift as much weight as you can (or close to it at least) multiple times for multiple sets. Forced reps simply mean that when you're doing this heavier than usual, and you fail, your spotter steps in to lighten the load to help you finish with a few extra reps.
In a nutshell, that’s what forced reps are.
What do They Do?
So what’s the point in getting help in your workout form someone else? Well, the idea is that it helps you do more than you usually could to really finish your set with a burn. It gives you that feel-good feeling you get from lifting as much as you possibly can, and that’s great.
What it’s not so good at, however, is helping you to build a lot of muscle and strength. That’s because, after all, someone is helping you to finish your set. You're getting more volume in your workout, but less workload. It's more reps, but likely lower average weight.
Why is that Bad
In theory, it isn’t. Realistically, progressive overload is the best way to build muscle, and intensity is a key aspect of that if you know how to use it. The issue, however, is that doing this is likely going to fry your muscles. You won't be able to lift much more after you've done this, as you've pushed yourself to absolute failure by doing something that you're not ready for. That’s never a smart move if you have more exercises to do, even if you think it’s better for your muscles.
What Are Their Benefits?
So then, with all of this being said, why on earth would people still choose to do forced reps? Well, despite what we’ve said, it does still have its merits. There are a few reasons for that too:
1. Drop Sets
This means that these sets are just acting like drop sets. Drop sets are a great tool if you use them to their full potential, and that means that with the right plan, you can make more progress. The key for this is though, to only use them on occasion, and to use them at the end of your workout and not for every exercise. That's a huge pitfall.
2. Mental Barriers
Pushing yourself past your physical and mental limits to do a new personal best is always going to give you that feel-good feeling. That's essential for the best workout you can get and to keep up the motivation in the long and in the short term. It helps you really want more from what you're doing and helps you push harder than ever.
3. Plateau Busting
Lastly, it seriously shocks your muscles. If your training is in a plateau because your body is just so used to how you like to train, throwing a spanner in the works is a great way to make sure you're getting the most out of yourself. You can push past your plateau and make your body react to a new type of stimuli. It's amazing.
Ultimately, forced reps have their ups and downs. If you sue them correctly and have a great spotter, they do have the potential to hurt your workouts. Miss use them, however, and you can do a lot more bad than good. Train smart, think ahead and make the most of your time. Good luck!
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